Criminal Justice and Suicide Outcomes with Indiana's Risk-Based Gun Seizure Law
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This article examines the application and effectiveness of a 2006 Indiana law designed to prevent gun violence by authorizing police officers to separate firearms from persons who present imminent or future risk of injury to self or others, or display a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct. A court hearing is held to determine ongoing risk in these cases; a judge decides whether to return the seized firearms or retain them for up to five years. The study examines the frequency of criminal arrest as well as suicide outcomes for 395 gun-removal actions in Indiana. Fourteen individuals (3.5%) died from suicide, seven (1.8%) using a firearm. The study population's annualized suicide rate was about 31 times higher than that of the general adult population in Indiana, demonstrating that the law is being applied to a population genuinely at high risk. By extrapolating information on the case fatality rate for different methods of suicide, we calculated that one life was saved for every 10 gun-removal actions, similar to results of a previous study in Connecticut. Perspectives from key stakeholders are also presented along with implications for gun policy reform and implementation.