London, Sept 4 : Keeping a gun at your home may increase the chances for you to pull the trigger and commit suicide, say two doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Following the finding, doctors are asking lawmakers and psychologists to take a new look at the risks of firearms.
Matthew Miller analysed four years of data in the US and discovered that the rate of suicides involving firearms in states with more gun owners was very high-up to four times higher for men and eight times higher for women.
However, the numbers of suicides not involving firearms were found to be the same.
This, according to Miller rules out the assumption that anyone serious enough to use a gun can easily resort to another equally effective means of suicide, in case he could not find a gun.
He, in fact, insists that suicide is an impulsive action.
"If people reach for a gun, they don't get a second chance; if they reach for pills, they do," New Scientist quoted Miller, as saying.
Other smaller case studies have reported two- to 10-times greater risk of suicide in homes with a gun, not only for the owner, but also for the spouse and children.
Just like, smoking and cancer, the gun's effect increases with exposure. A gun kept unlocked and loaded is more likely to increase the risk than a secured gun.
Co-author David Hemenway has asked for healthcare professionals to not only analyse the intent of patients, but also to restrict access to guns.
"Change the environment so it's hard for people to do stupid things, and people will do fewer stupid things," he said.
According to Karen Norberg of the US National Bureau of Economics Research in St Louis, Missouri, other differences between gun owners and non-gun owners unrelated to firearms may also explain the differences in suicide rates.
"The ideal experiment would be watching suicide rates in many different places that all changed their gun-control laws at the same time," she said.