Ahead of Veterans Day, New Memo Explores Devastating Toll of Gun Suicides Among Veterans
6,500 veterans die by suicide each year
You are not alone. If you or a loved one are contemplating suicide, please call the free and confidential national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or access help through their website at 988lifeline.org.
Washington DC — Ahead of Veterans Day, Giffords Law Center, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, released a memo underscoring the crisis of gun suicides among veterans.
Kelly Drane, Research Director, Giffords Law Center:
“Increasingly, guns are fueling a veteran suicide crisis across our nation, to the point where veterans are more likely to die by suicide than soldiers are to be killed on the battlefield. We know that guns significantly increase the lethality of suicide attempts. Yet the gun industry continues to engage in reckless marketing, drive up gun sales, and work to weaken our gun laws—putting our veterans at even more risk. It is long past time for our leaders to take meaningful steps to address this crisis, including enacting safe storage and extreme risk protection order laws. We can and must do more to protect our nation’s veterans.”
- More than 6,500 veterans die by suicide each year, and veterans account for roughly one in five firearm suicides in the US.
- Since 2006, veterans have died by suicide nearly 20 times more often than soldiers have been killed in war operations.
- Nearly 70% of veteran suicides involve firearms, compared with roughly 51% of all suicides nationwide.
- The proportion of veteran suicides that are carried out with firearms has increased in recent years. In fact, in 2020, 71% of veteran suicides involved firearms, the highest percentage on record.
- Physician Firearm Safety Counseling: Half of individuals, including veterans, who die by suicide are seen in primary care settings in the month prior to death. Medical professionals can play an important role in discussing suicide risk and firearms safety with patients.
- Safe Firearm Storage: Safe firearm storage—where guns are stored unloaded, locked up, and ammunition locked and stored separately—is an important way to disrupt access to lethal means in times of crisis. In fact, recent studies suggest that veterans in suicidal crisis are more likely than other veterans to store firearms unsafely.
- Temporary Out-of-Home Gun Storage: People at risk of suicide can often be active partners in promoting their own health and safety by taking voluntary steps to limit their own access to the most lethal means of suicide. In some cases, family, friends, therapists, or physicians can successfully convince a struggling person to temporarily and voluntarily store guns outside the home to make them less accessible in a moment of crisis.
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Extreme risk laws allow families, household members, or law enforcement officers to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) which temporarily restricts a person’s access to guns if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. Nearly 80% of those contemplating suicide show concrete signs before a suicide attempt. Extreme risk laws empower those most likely to notice warning signs to help remove firearms from people at a high risk of suicide.
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