New Study Says Large Percentage Of Mentally Ill Teens Have Easy Access To Guns

A new study says that it's relatively easy for teens with histories of mental illness or suicidal acts to find guns in their homes.

The study found that 41 percent of teens in a home with a gun had easy access to the weapon. It also found that 41 percent of teens either suffer from mental health problems, have tried to kill themselves, or have thought about it.

Dr. Joseph Simonetti, of the University of Washington School of Medicine's Harborview Medical Center, led the study.

"Studies have consistently shown that children living in homes with safely-stored firearms are less likely to be shot, and safe firearm storage is widely recommended by gun rights organizations and public health officials. Trigger locks and gun lockboxes can be purchased for less than $10 online, and in common stores."

Simonetti and his researchers based their findings on data collected from 10,123 thirteen- to 18-year-olds between 2001 and 2004.

A Reuters Health story about the study on the Scientific American website reported Friday that a third of the teen respondents lived in a home with a firearm, and that older, male, and white teens reported the easiest access. Previous studies have found that the chances of a teen suicide in a home that doesn't have a firearm is exponentially less than those that do.

As part of the study, the Simonetti research team, writing in JAMA Psychiatry, pointed out that suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens, and having a firearm in the home is one risk factor for suicide.

Last month, when a law prohibiting anyone with psychiatric problems in Ohio from owning a gun was appealed, a federal court overturned the law, saying that it was unconstitutional.

Dr. Simonetti cautioned readers to not come to quick conclusions as a result of the study, saying that more data needs to be collected and new solutions need to be examined.

"One of the limitations of this study is we're using data that was collected from 2001 to 2004. We need better studies on how to promote safe firearms storage especially in households with children and children with mental illness."

While those numbers are compiled and solutions examined, the suicides continue. In 2011, researchers found that 19,766 gun suicides were reported out of a total of 38,285 total suicides in the United States. In 2010, the numbers were 19,392 suicides committed with a gun, and 38,364 suicides total. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for America's youth.

[Image via Think Progress]