Skip to content

Waiting Periods

Waiting Periods

What is the problem?

A waiting period law requires a certain number of days to pass between the purchase of a gun and when the buyer can actually take possession of that gun. This creates a buffer between someone having a suicidal crisis and access to a gun.

Creating a buffer between someone having a suicidal crisis and access to a gun can be the difference between life and death. Waiting period laws require gun buyers to wait until a certain period of time has passed before they are able to access a gun they have purchased.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line for free from anywhere in the U.S.

How it Works

When someone is considering suicide, days matter—and waiting periods can save lives.

Guns are by far the most lethal method of commonly-used methods of self-harm, with a fatality rate of about 90%. By contrast, less than 4% of people who attempt suicide using other methods will die, and the vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Although guns are used in less than 6% of suicide attempts, more than half of suicide deaths are by gun. Research suggests that reduced suicide attempts by gun would result in an overall decline in the suicide rate by an estimated 20 to 38%. And in a study of statewide suicide rate changes between 2013 and 2014, states with waiting periods saw a decrease in suicide rates, while those without waiting period laws had an increase.

Unlike the Charleston Loophole, which affects gun buyers whose records require further investigation to determine if they are prohibited, a waiting period applies to all gun buyers. This provides a “cooling off” period for the people who might reconsider their intentions in the interim.

Myth & Fact


Suicide is inevitable.


Suicide is preventable. In fact, the vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun. Across all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, 4% will result in death. But for gun suicides, those statistics are flipped: about 90% of gun suicide attempts end in death.

All Resources

Waiting Periods