The Reality of Guns And Suicides in Three Charts

September 9th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

There are innumerable studies linking the higher availability of firearms to more suicide deaths in a range of populations—from those ages 65-and-older, to veterans, to young people living in rural areas—all of which provide pertinent statistics in light of suicide prevention week. But according to a new report released this week by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit focused on reducing gun deaths and injuries in the U.S., firearm suicide has reached epidemic levels in recent years, and not enough is currently being done to combat it.

In the U.S., more people die from gun suicides than from gun homicides: decreases in the latter category a decade ago are mirrored by an uptick in the former, according to one University of California, Davis study. But research indicates that although gun suicides already eclipse gun homicides two-fold, that gap is widening.

According to the Brady Campaign report, the widening gap represents the failure of progressive policy action in an era of more affordable health care, marriage equality, and wages creeping closer to meeting reasonable standards of living. The report notes that while firearm homicides have steadily declined over the past decade, firearm suicide rates have risen, "increasing more than 13 percent between 2007 and 2013."

"The combination of these two trends is keeping the overall gun death rate essentially stagnant," the report continues.

More die from gun suicides than gun homicides

Gun deaths by suicide account for a large portion of all suicides across age groups, though it is highest among older white men.

Gun deaths by suicide are high across age groups

Suicide by gun rates are higher in states with a higher rate firearm ownership. This may seem like an obvious connection, but the report notes that the causes for the correlation break down into three categories: wide availability increases the likelihood of suicide attempts; the lethality of firearms impedes survival chances for suicidal persons; and the ease and speediness of firearms provides less of an opportunity for suicidal persons to fully consider their decisions.

Gun suicides are higher in states with more firearms

The issue of firearm suicides is extensive and ingrained, as the above charts illustrate. But, the report concludes, it is not insurmountable. According to the report, expanded education efforts about firearms' safety, improved and extensive data on both gun violence and effective interventions, and strategic collaborations between public and private entities to prevent against firearm violence suicide are first steps to solving the problem. "We owe it to current and future Americans to urgently address—and ultimately reverse—the current upward trend in suicide deaths," the report notes.