CDC Firearm Suicide Data

IN ANY GIVEN YEAR, AROUND 600 TENNESSEANS WILL USE A GUN TO TAKE THEIR OWN LIFE. 

Far more people kill themselves with a firearm each year than are murdered with one.  In 2015, 22,018 people used a firearm to take their own life, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and the Center for Disease Control.  More Americans kill themselves with guns than with all other intentional means combined, including hanging, poisoning or overdose, jumping, or cutting.

In Tennessee, well over half of all suicides are firearm suicides.  Although most are adults, some are young people who gain access to a family member’s gun.

SUICIDE IN TENNESSEE

YEAR

ALL Suicide Deaths

Firearm Suicide Deaths ONLY

2015

1068

638

2014

997

644

2013

1030

676

2012

978

626

2011

955

591

2010 943

585

* CDC’s WISQARS™ (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) database

MEANS MATTER

Firearm suicides are unique in both their impulsivity and lethality.

While it is true that some people who commit suicide plan it well in advance, empirical evidence suggests that more often, individuals attempting suicide act in a moment of brief but heightened vulnerability.  Most people who survive a suicide attempt will not attempt suicide again.

Intent matters but so does the method because the method often determines whether the suicide attempt results in death. Around 85 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm result in a death whereas drug overdoses, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, result in death only in less than 3 percent of cases.

Guns are a permanent solution to what is often a passing crisis. Suicidal individuals who attempt a drug overdose or try to cut themselves or inhale car exhaust have time to change their mine or call for help. With a gun, once the trigger is pulled, there is no time to reconsider.

What makes guns the most common mode of suicide in America? They are both lethal and accessible. About one in three American households contains a firearm. This easy access carries a high price. Gun owners and their families are much more likely to kill themselves than are non-gun-owners.  A gun in the home raises the suicide risk for everyone in the home: the gun owner, their spouse and their children. Children, especially “tweens” and teens, are at additional risk if guns are not stored properly. Developmentally, young people are susceptible to high emotion and impulsive behavior. Access to loaded, unsecured guns can result in a deadly and heartbreaking tragedy for an emotional teen.

Most gun owners will not attempt suicide with their gun. However, it is still imperative that gun owners are aware of the risks not just to them but also to their family members. If they feel that they or a family member may be at risk for suicide, they should seriously consider temporarily removing firearms from their home. In homes with children, firearms should always be stored responsibly – secured with a gun lock or in a locked gun safe. Additionally, programs such as The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network’s excellent Gun Safety Project provide guidance to gun retailers and firing range operators to help them avoid selling or renting a gun to a suicidal customer.  Gun sellers and range owners are generally receptive to these programs. We can all agree that we should do what we can to prevent a troubled individual from using a gun to take their life.

Additional reading on firearm suicides and policies that can reduce them:

Suicide-By-Firearm Rates Shift in Two States After Changes in State Gun Laws
John Hopkins School of Public Health

Gun Suicides Plummet in State After New Licensing Law, Skyrocket After Law Repealed in Other State
Slate

Study shows Connecticut temporary gun removal law lowers suicide risk
Duke University Chronicle

Guns & Suicide: The Hidden Toll
Harvard Public Health Magazine

Guns and Suicide: A Fatal Link
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Suicide, Guns, and Public Policy
American Journal of Public Health