Over 60 percent of all gun deaths in America are suicides, which is more than homicides and unintentional shootings combined. Evidence shows that storing firearms safely and securing — which means locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition — can prevent tragedies of firearm suicide.
Washington, D.C., August 31, 2022 – As we all approach National Suicide Prevention Month in September, the gun violence prevention community calls on the news media to devote more attention to the epidemic of firearm suicides, which have outnumbered gun homicides every year since the CDC began collecting data in 1981.
Three in four Americans aren't aware that most gun deaths are suicides. In fact, over 60 percent of all gun deaths in America are suicides, which is more than homicides and unintentional shootings combined. Evidence underscores an urgent need for a conversation about safe firearm storage — which means storing guns locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition — as a key solution to preventing firearm suicide. Firearm suicide is a part of “family fire,” or a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home that results in death or injury.
“We need to talk more about gun suicide, so we can talk more about how to prevent it,” says Brady President Kris Brown.
From 2016 to 2020, more than half (59%) of all gun deaths in the United States were suicides, although the media tend to focus overwhelmingly on less common events such as mass shootings, which account for less than 1 percent of gun deaths.
The number of gun suicides has also risen in recent years – climbing 10% over five years and 25% over 10 years – and is near its highest point on record. The 24,292 gun suicides that took place in 2020 were the most in any year except 2018.
Nationwide, about 65 people die from gun suicide every day – which is more than three times the number killed in one day in the recent Uvalde, TX, school shooting. Suicide is among the top three causes of death for Americans aged 10 through 34. Youth suicide is especially troubling; between 1999 and 2014, youth suicide rates for adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 tripled. The increase was especially sharp among Black and Latinx teens.
How can these numbers be brought down? “Safe gun storage is the key to preventing family fire, which includes firearm suicide,” says Brown. “Even when we own guns for protection, they can put our loved ones at risk. Access to a firearm in the household triples the risk of a suicide death. And in 75% of youth firearm suicides in which the gun storage method was identified, the gun was stored loaded and unlocked. When we store our guns safely — locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition — we save lives.”
Most suicide attempts are undertaken impulsively during moments of temporary crisis. That’s why delaying someone’s access to a gun by even a few moments—by storing guns unloaded, locked, and separately from ammunition—can give them a second chance at life. More than 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.
Twenty-year-old college student Christopher Zoeller lost his grandmother to firearm suicide when he was a child. Today he works with Brady’s youth-led organization, Team ENOUGH, to lobby state and federal legislators to enact common-sense gun violence prevention policies.
“Every year, more than 600 children under age 17 and an additional 1,100 young adults under 21 die from gun suicides, most of which could have been prevented if the gun in the home was stored more safely,” says Zoeller. “Preventing easy access to guns can delay a suicide attempt, giving someone who is struggling with their mental health more time to seek help.”
Brady’s End Family Fire program is a partnership with the Ad Council to encourage safer gun storage practices in the home through Public Service Announcements and other activities.
Resources for Communicating About Gun Suicide
As one of the nation’s leading gun-violence-prevention groups, Brady has extensive resources available on the topic of gun suicide.
Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide, Joint Project by Leading Experts
The Truth About Suicide and Guns,” Brady Report 2021
Firearm Suicide Risk Among Veterans and Military Service Members, Brady Online Resources
Preventing Gun Suicides Among Youth, Team ENOUGH
- Brady Podcasts:
About End Family Fire
The nonpartisan End Family Fire program encourages safe gun storage by putting a name to the preventable tragedies that occur when guns in the home are misused. “Family fire” refers to a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home that results in death or injury. Incidents of family fire include suicides, unintentional shootings, and other gun-related tragedies. The program aims to bring awareness to the issue of family fire, give gun owners a role in gun violence prevention, and encourage a national dialogue around safe storage practices—all of which can help prevent tragedies of family fire. End Family Fire’s nationally syndicated PSAs remind gun owners to store their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. They also drive audiences to EndFamilyFire.org for tips to make their homes safer and resources for those seeking more information about the issue of gun 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 text the Crisis Textline by texting HOME to 741741.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.