Guns and Suicide

October 26, 2015

A recent report from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “The Truth About Suicide and Guns,” describes the strong link between gun ownership and suicide: a gun in the home makes suicide three times more likely.

The report finds that while gun ownership alone presents the greatest risk, when combined with the impulsive nature of suicide and the effectiveness of a gun, the combination is deadly. In fact, 71% of people who attempt suicide do so within an hour after making the decision. Further, death results 91% of the time when a gun is used because injuries are instantaneous and leave little time for medical intervention or for the victim to reconsider their decision.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • Suicide deaths are up 41% since 1999
  • 2/3 of gun deaths are by suicide
  • On average, guns account for 19,992 suicides every year
  • The states with the five highest rates of gun suicides have gun ownership rates 37% or more higher than the national average

Visit The Brady Campaign’s website to read the full report, The Truth About Suicide and Guns.

Suicide among young black males

At Washington University, faculty member Sean Joe, PhD, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor in Social Development at the Brown School, is a national expert and leading authority on suicide among black Americans, specifically black adolescent males.

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In a profile last fall, he states “I got into working more on suicide because there was a great demand for information. There wasn’t much out there on the subject. It’s an important issue that I felt was understudied. I thought that as a society we needed to do more, so I dedicated my life to just that.”

Sean Joe, PhD, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor in Social Development, talks with Brown School doctoral student Andrae Banks in Brown Hall. Joe is a leading national authority on suicide among black Americans.

Sean Joe, PhD, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor in Social Development, talks with Brown School doctoral student Andrae Banks in Brown Hall. Joe is a leading national authority on suicide among black Americans.

Read the full interview with Dr. Joe about his work to positively impact black youth.


This post is part of the October 2015 “Gun Violence” series of the Institute for Public Health’s blog. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive notifications about our latest blog posts.

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