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Firearm Suicide in the United States

8.30.2019

Last Updated: 5.9.2024

Six out of every 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, resulting in an average of 65 deaths a day.

Mikey, a 13-year-old boy from Upstate New York, was friendly and engaged. One day in January, he shot and killed himself with one of his father’s guns. Mikey’s suicide came as a shock. “He may have gotten angry for some reason. At that age you’re not thinking how final a gun is.”

–Alexandria Bodden, Mikey’s older sister and gun violence prevention advocate

988 SUICIDE & CRISIS LIFELINE

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org/chat to chat with a counselor from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress anywhere in the US.

Introduction

25k

Each year, more than 25,000 Americans die by firearm suicide.

Firearm suicide is a significant public health crisis in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 25,000 Americans every year,1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. including more than 3,100 young people2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using data from 2016 to 2020. Young Americans are defined as ages 10 to 24. and 4,600 veterans.3Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “Those Who Serve: Addressing Firearm Suicide Among Military Veterans,” March 7, 2024, https://everytownresearch.org/report/those-who-serve/. Nearly six out of every 10 gun deaths in the US are suicides, resulting in an average of 69 deaths a day.4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. And the problem is getting worse: Over the past decade, the United States firearm suicide rate has increased 18 percent.5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. Rates are age-adjusted. A percentage change was developed using 2013 and 2022 data. This trend is of particular concern among young Americans, whose firearm suicide rate has increased 53 percent over the past 10 years,6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A percent change was developed using 2011 to 2020 crude rates for young Americans (10-24). and for veterans, who are nearly three times more likely than non-veteran adults to die by gun suicide.7Everytown Research analysis of US Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, “2001–2021 National Data Appendix,” November 2023, https://bit.ly/2Qblicx. Veteran and non-veteran crude rates for 2021.

In a recent national poll, 16 percent of respondents—or roughly 40 million American adults—reported that someone they care for attempted or died by suicide with a gun.8SurveyUSA Market Research Study. Data collected from December 7, 2018 to December 11, 2018. https://bit.ly/2ExxpyZ. See question 36. But suicide, including firearm suicide, can be prevented. Removing access to firearms, a particularly lethal means, is the easiest and quickest intervention. Policies and practices that limit or disrupt access to firearms, such as those outlined later in the Recommendations section, have been shown to save lives.

Key Findings

Americans should be aware of the prevalence of firearm suicide, how having access to a gun increases the risk of suicide, and steps they can take to mitigate risk. Research shows that having access to a firearm triples one’s risk of death by suicide. This elevated risk applies not only to the gun owner but to everyone in the household.9Anglemyer A., Horvath T., & Rutherford G. “The accessibility of firearms and risk for suicide and homicide victimization among household members: a systematic review and meta-analysis”. Annals of Internal Medicine, (2014). https://doi.org/10.7326/M13-1301 People who live in US states with high rates of household gun ownership are also almost four times more likely to die by gun suicide than those in states where fewer households have guns. This relationship remains strong even when controlling for other factors associated with suicide, like poverty, unemployment, serious mental illness, and substance abuse.10Anglemyer A, Horvath T, Rutherford G. The accessibility of firearms and risk for suicide and homicide victimization among household members: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014;160:101–110.

Access to a gun robs a person in crisis from a second chance at life.

There is a popular misconception that suicide is inevitable, that suicidal ideation is a permanent condition. But most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun. Across all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, 4 percent result in death. But for gun suicide, those statistics are flipped: Approximately 90 percent of gun suicide attempts end in death.11Conner A, Azrael D, Miller M. Suicide Case-Fatality Rates in the United States, 2007 to 2014: A Nationwide Population-Based Study. Ann Intern Med. December 2019:885-895. And the vast majority of those who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.12Owens D, Horrocks J, House A. Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm. Systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2002;181:193–199. Everytown’s recent analysis of hospital records strongly reaffirms this research on the lethality of firearms. More than 60 in 100 gun deaths each year are by suicide, while just three in 100 hospital visits each year due to a nonfatal gunshot wound are the result of a suicide attempt. A reduction in suicide attempts by firearm would result in an overall decline in the suicide rate.13Soffen K. To reduce suicides, look at guns. The Washington Post. July 13, 2016. https://wapo.st/2I7MCUx. Yip PS, Caine E, Yousuf S, Chang SS, Wu KC, Chen YY. Means restriction for suicide prevention. The Lancet. 2012;379(9834):2393–2399.

Firearm suicides follow sharply divergent demographic patterns.

87%

Men represent 87% of firearm suicide victims.

Men, white Americans, and those living in rural areas are disproportionately affected. Men represent 87 percent of firearm suicide victims; they are nearly 7 times more likely than women to die by firearm suicide.14Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. White defined as non-Latinx origin. For men, firearm suicide rates largely increase with age, and are especially high for males 55 and older.15Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. For women, firearm suicide rates are highest in the 45-to-59 age range.16Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. 

White Americans represent 82 percent of all firearm suicide victims, and have the highest rate of firearm suicide by race.17Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. White defined as non-Latinx origin. American Indians / Alaska Natives also have a disproportionately high rate of firearm suicide, with the second-highest rate of firearm suicide among the country’s five major racial and ethnic groups.18Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. Racial and ethnic breakdowns developed using five years of most recent available data: 2018 to 2022.

Americans living in rural areas experience far higher rates of firearm suicide than those living in urban areas.19Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average for each CDC classified urbanization level was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. The average firearm suicide rate increases as counties become more rural,20Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average for each CDC classified urbanization level was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022. and the rate of firearm suicide in the most rural counties is nearly 3 times higher than in the most urban counties.21Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average for each CDC classified urbanization level was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2022.

For further discussion of factors related to firearm suicide in each of these demographic groups, see Firearm Suicide by Congressional District.

Recommendations

Firearm suicide can be prevented. There are actions we can take to mitigate the risk of suicide and save lives. Effective suicide prevention in the United States requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the complex interplay between individuals, groups, community, and larger societal factors that impact firearm suicide. As such, the following policy recommendations are categorized by these four overlapping points of intervention.

A multi-faceted approach is needed to address the complex interplay between individuals, groups, community, and larger societal factors that impact firearm suicide.

Individual-level interventions promote behaviors and attitudes that can mitigate the risk of gun suicide among those most at risk. 

In-Home Secure Firearm Storage.

80%

Over 80% of child firearm suicides involved a gun belonging to a family member

R. M. Johnson , C. Barber, D. Azrael, D. E. Clark, and D. Hemenway. “Who Are the Owners of Firearms Used in adolescent suicides?”. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior. (2010). https://doi.org/10.1521/suli.2010.40.6.609

Policies and practices that disrupt the easy and immediate acquisition of firearms have been shown to save lives. Secure firearm storage can help mitigate the risks of firearm suicide, especially for children. Approximately 4.6 million American children live in households with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.22Matthew Miller and Deborah Azrael, “Firearm Storage in US Households with Children: Findings from the 2021 National Firearm Survey,” JAMA Network Open 5, no. 2 (2022): e2148823, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.48823. When American children die by firearm suicide, over 80 percent use a gun belonging to a family member.23Johnson RM, Barber C, Azrael D, Clark DE, Hemenway D. Who are the owners of firearms used in adolescent suicides? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 2010;40(6):609-611. Study defined children as under the age of 18. Over 80 percent of children who died by gun suicide used a gun belonging to a family member. One study found that households that locked both firearms and ammunition were associated with a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and an 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children, compared to those that locked neither.24Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, et al. Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2005;293(6):707-714. And researchers estimate that if half of households that store at least one unlocked gun moved to lock all of their guns, 251 youth fatalities from firearm suicide and unintentional shootings could be prevented in a single year.25Monuteaux MC, Azrael D, Miller M. Association of increased safe household firearm storage with firearm suicide and unintentional death among US youths. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019;173(7):657-662. These lives saved would make up one-third of all preventable youth deaths from firearm suicide and unintentional shootings that year.

Many cities and states have laws that require or encourage secure storage. Most states and the District of Columbia have some form of secure firearm storage law. Some states have passed storage laws known as Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, which impose criminal penalties when a person fails to securely store a firearm and a child gains unauthorized access to it. States with laws mandating secure storage or with CAP laws saw an 8 percent decrease in overall suicide rates and an 11 percent decrease in firearm suicide rates among adolescents aged 14 to 17.26Webster DW, Vernick JS, Zeoli AM, Manganello JA. “Association Between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides”. JAMA. (2004). https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.292.5.594

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

26 states have adopted this policy

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Alabama has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Alaska has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Arizona has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Arkansas has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

California has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
Yes

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Colorado has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
Yes

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Connecticut has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
Any time not in owner’s immediate control
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
Yes

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Delaware has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
Yes

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Florida has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Georgia has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Hawaii has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Idaho has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Illinois has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 14
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Indiana has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Iowa has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 14
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Kansas has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Kentucky has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Louisiana has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Maine has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Maryland has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Massachusetts has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
Any time not in owner’s immediate control
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Michigan has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Minnesota has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Mississippi has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Missouri has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Montana has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Nebraska has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Nevada has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

New Hampshire has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

New Jersey has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

New Mexico has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

New York has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
When child may or is likely to access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
Yes

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

North Carolina has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

North Dakota has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Ohio has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Oklahoma has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Oregon has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
Any time not in owner’s immediate control
How does the state define child?
Under 18
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Pennsylvania has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Rhode Island has adopted this policy

When does the law apply?
After child gains access
How does the state define child?
Under 16
Does the state law require storage to prevent access by other prohibited people?
No

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

South Carolina has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

South Dakota has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Tennessee has not adopted this policy

Secure Storage or Child Access Prevention Required

Texas has adopted this policy