Conservative Beliefs, Male Gender, and Beliefs About Means Safety Among Firearm Owners

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Reducing access to highly lethal methods for suicide (i.e., means safety) has been promoted as a way to reduce suicide risk. Research by Anestis et al. (J Affect Disord 227:530–535, 2018) has demonstrated that individuals who believe firearm ownership and storage are not associated with suicide risk and that those who are prevented from utilizing a specific method for suicide will find an alternative method (i.e., means substitution) are less willing to engage in firearms means safety. Sociopolitical beliefs and gender are two factors that are associated with beliefs about firearms and suicide. However, the extent to which these variables—in isolation and in combination—are associated with such beliefs has not been examined. This study examined how gender and social policy beliefs are associated with misconceptions about firearms and suicide. A total of 367 firearm owners took part in an anonymous online survey. Conservative firearm owners indicated firearm ownership and storage are less strongly related to suicide risk than did moderate or liberal individuals. Conservative males had significantly higher belief in means substitution than moderate and liberal males and liberal females. Liberal females had significantly lower belief in means substitution than moderate males and females and liberal males. Effective messaging regarding firearm means safety must consider the perspectives and potential motivations of individuals who are male and/or hold conservative beliefs to increase the reach and acceptability of means safety efforts.

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Cognitive Therapy and Research

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