Resources for Journalists on Responsibly Covering Gun Suicide are Available Here
As September begins and marks the start of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action recommit to honoring gun suicide survivors and advocating for proven solutions to prevent gun suicide, including extreme risk laws, waiting period legislation, secure storage of firearms, and increased access to mental health and medical services.
This month, Everytown and it’s grassroots networks, Moms Demand Actions, Students Demand Action, and the Everytown Survivor Network, will be hosting multiple activations to raise awareness on firearm suicide. On September 13th at 8PM ET, the Everytown Survivor Network will bring together a diverse group of survivors of suicide loss with a firearm to discuss their experiences with grief and trauma, the complicated stigmatization around grieving suicide loss within various personal and cultural identities, and how best to find the support needed to heal. More information on the event is available here.
Firearm suicide is a preventable public health crisis. One of the most effective things we can do to help people in crisis is remove their access to firearms. Nearly six out of every 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are gun suicides, and having access to a firearm triples someone’s risk of death by suicide. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun. Gun suicides in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2022, according to provisional data from the CDC. Nearly six out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides, and having access to a firearm triples someone’s risk of death by suicide
Gun suicide permeates both rural and urban communities. While the rate of firearm suicide in rural areas is more than double the rate in urban areas, according to Everytown’s city gun suicide report, the rate of people who died by gun suicide in cities increased eleven percent over the past decade. Today, gun suicides comprise more than four in ten city gun deaths and nearly 20 people in cities die by gun suicide every day. Researchers have raised alarm about the surge of gun sales, the number of unsecured firearms in homes, and the ongoing stress and anxiety of our communities — especially among young people and veterans whose rates of gun suicide have exponentially increased over the past decade.
This September, Everytown for Gun Safety is honoring those lost to gun suicide and advocating for interventions that can disrupt gun access and save lives. This “continuum of intervention” presents a range of actions that can be taken depending on the severity of the crisis and other factors, including whether the person in crisis owns firearms, how many firearms are in the home, how those firearms are stored, and how willing the person is to voluntarily reduce their own access to firearm. The continuum of firearm access intervention can be found here.
Lawmakers at every level of government also have a role to play in preventing gun suicide. They can and should pass polices that are proven to help prevent gun suicide, including Extreme Risk laws, waiting period legislation, secure storage of firearms, and increased access to mental health and medical services.
- Extreme risk laws allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns. When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Research showsthat a suicide is averted in approximately one in ten gun removal cases brought under Connecticut’s Extreme Risk law and Indiana saw a 7.5 percent reduction in its firearm suicide rate in the 10 years following the enactment of its Extreme Risk law. More states should pass Extreme Risk laws and those with the law on the books must full implement them to save lives.
- Properly securing and storing firearms is particularly effective in preventing gun suicide, especially for children. It is estimated that if half of households with children that have at least one unlocked gun switched to locking all their guns, one-third of youth gun suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented, saving an estimated 251 lives in a single year. Seven states and the District of Columbia, and several cities have laws mandating that owners secure their firearms. Public awareness is also critical to ensuring that guns are stored securely. Be SMART, a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, is one of the many models that can be used by public officials and community members to build awareness of the importance of firearm storage.
- Schools notifying parents about the laws and importance of secure firearm storage can also prevent gun violence.
- Gun storage maps have been developed by several states and localities to increase public awareness of out-of-home storage options.Individuals at an increased risk for suicide, or in suicidal crisis, can put more time and space between themselves and any household firearms by voluntarily storing firearms outside the home, such as at a gun dealer or with an eligible family member.
- 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline three-digit national dialing, texting, and chat code which is partially funded by the resources allocated in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is the crisis hotline for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental health-related crises. The hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential services. The 988 dispatch system routes the dialer to a trained crisis counselor available based on their zip code – similar to the 911 dispatch system.
More information on gun suicide is available here. Additional resources for gun suicide survivors are available here. To speak with a policy expert, Moms Demand Action volunteer and/or Students Demand Action volunteer, please do not hesitate to reach out.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org/chat to chat with a counselor from the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress anywhere in the US.