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Gun Suicide Across the States

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides annual gunshot fatality statistics. The following data is from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Using the most recent data available from 2018, Brady calculated the percentage of suicides involving a firearm in each state, and for various demographic groups within each state. Information missing for any demographic group within a state is due to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) restrictions that prevent the publishing of death counts of nine or fewer or death rates based on counts of nine or fewer for sub-national geography in order to protect the identity of deceased persons.

In order to end gun violence we must address gun suicide, which accounts for 61 percent of all gun deaths in America.

The Relationship Between Guns and Suicide

Firearm suicides account for more than half of all suicide deaths in the United States. Multiple studies have linked the accessibility of firearms with higher suicide rates: States with the highest rates of household firearm ownership have higher rates of suicide overall than states with the lowest household firearm ownership rates, even though rates of non-firearm suicide are comparable across these states. This does not mean that gun owners are more suicidal. Instead, it is evidence that guns are the most lethal method of suicide.

Research shows that access to a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide death by 300%. Compared to other commonly used methods in suicide attempts, firearms are extreamly lethal; about 90% of those who attempt suicide with a firearm will not survive. In contrast, the odds of survival are higher for those who attempt suicide by other methods. This is significant because nine in 10 survivors of suicide attempts will not go on to die by suicide. It is sometimes — and incorrectly — argued that someone who is suicidal ultimately cannot be prevented from dying from suicide. 2 out of 3 Americans mistakenly believe that most people who survive a suicide attempt will make additional attempts in the future. In actuality, 70% never attempt suicide again.

Despite the above evidence, many Americans are not aware that the method used in a suicide attempt depends on its availability during a crisis. Only 15% of US adults agree that the presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide. Since 2000, the percentage of the public that believes that having a gun in the home makes them safer increased from 35% to 63%.

Studies suggest that storing firearms locked and unloaded can be an effective measure to reduce impulsive suicidal acts. Visit EndFamilyFire.org to learn more about securing guns in the home to prevent firearm suicide.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. Help is on the other end of the line.


* Information missing for any demographic group within a state is due to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) restrictions that prevent the publishing of death counts of nine or fewer or death rates based on counts of nine or fewer for sub-national geography in order to protect the identity of deceased persons.


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