The majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted. The easy availability of firearms to those in distress makes suicide attempts far more likely to result in death.
Suicide affects a large and growing number of American families. But these tragedies are preventable. Most people who attempt suicide without a gun survive in both the short and long term— 90% of survivors do not die by suicide. But those who reach for a gun rarely have a second chance.
Though most people who attempt suicide are struggling with mental illness, suicide attempts are usually impulsive responses to acute crisis. People who reach for guns in these moments of crisis are unlikely to survive. In fact, guns are used in only 5% of suicide attempts, but because guns are uniquely lethal, they are responsible for over 50% of suicide deaths. This is why states with immediate, unrestricted access to guns have much higher suicide rates. And it’s why gun safety reform must be part of a comprehensive policy response.
Effective Gun Policy Can Prevent Suicides
Suicide rates are much higher in states with weak gun laws and broad access to firearms, like Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming. However, several states have enacted effective suicide prevention policies to limit at-risk individuals’ access to guns during periods of suicidal crisis.
- Universal Background Checks help to keep severely suicidal people from acquiring guns after they have been involuntarily committed for their own safety.
- Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws empower family members to proactively protect their loved ones by petitioning a court to temporarily remove guns during a severe suicidal crisis.
- Voluntary Gun Relinquishment Laws could help empower people to promote their own health and safety by limiting their own access to guns during mental crises.
- Waiting Periods provide a brief but crucial cooling off period to guard against impulsive, suicidal gun purchases.
- Smart Guns, Safety Training, and Safe Storage Laws help keep children and teens from gaining unsupervised access to guns can meaningfully reduce youth suicide.
- Healthcare-Based Suicide Prevention Programs have shown that medical professionals make a remarkable difference in their patients’ risk of suicide if they have the training, freedom, and support to effectively counsel their patients about suicide and gun safety.
You are not alone. If you or a loved one are contemplating suicide, please call the free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.