Guns are driving rising suicide rates in American cities

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and it brings unwelcome news regarding the relationship between firearms and suicide. The first citywide analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on gun deaths found that the firearm suicide rate rose 11 percent between 2014 and 2020.

Firearms homicide rates also increased during this period by 18 percent. The 2022 mass shooting understandably sparked outrage, but More than half Of all gun deaths in the United States are the result of suicide.

Suicide itself is a larger factor in premature death, which may be generally understood. According to the Center for Disease Control and PreventionIn 2020, it was the second leading cause of death (after unintentional injury) for Americans aged 10-14 and 25-34. Among those aged 15-24 it was third (immediately after the murder) and for those aged 35-44 it was fourth.

Guns add a killer dimension to this public health problem; study Posted in Annals of internal medicine That looked at millions of records from hospitals and emergency departments and found that while less than 9 percent of all suicide attempts were fatal, nearly 90 percent of suicide attempts resulted in death.

City-wide results are outlined in the report Suicide is a gun in cities, a collaboration between the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety and New York University Langone Health. Firearms death data merged into a file City Health Dashboard From Langone Health which includes more than 40 measures of health and health equity.

“When we think about urban firearms and the damage they cause, our minds tend to shoot directly at others,” said Mark Gurevich, chief of population health at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and principal architect of the dashboard. “One of the lessons from this analysis is that it is important to focus attention on reducing the availability of weapons for people who may be considering suicide.”

Suicide mortality rates by demographics and-location-2010-to-2020.png

Suicide rates increased 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, with rising demographics rates that may surprise those who don’t study this health issue. (palm)

Less politics, more deaths

Nationally, the death rate from suicide increased by 12 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), accounting for more deaths than car accidents.

White Americans were twice as likely to commit suicide as blacks, although the rate among African Americans rose from 5.4 to 7.7 per 100,000 over the decade. The largest increase over the period, 62 percent, was among those aged 12 to 17.

Heather Saunders, Postdoctoral Researcher in Health Services at KFF, published results Regarding the prevalence of suicide using firearms in these trends in July of this year, the month in which the three-digit National Suicide and Crisis Contact Code appears, 988The live broadcast has begun.

Saunders looked at suicide rates statewide and noticed a wide variation across states. “When we released it by type of suicide and included firearm suicide, I noticed that the difference appeared to be driven by firearm suicide rates.”

After that, she consulted State Firearms Law Database Classifying states into groups according to the number of gun law provisions, and assigning them to the “low”, “medium” and “high” categories. (The categories were based only on the number of laws, not the type.)

The states with the fewest gun laws had the highest gun suicide rate, twice as high as those in the “high” category. Saunders estimated that if all states had the fatal gun-suicide mortality rate that she found in the states with the most gun laws, 15 percent of All Suicide-related deaths may be avoided.

“My study was not designed to be causal,” Saunders says. “It’s just looking at two things that happen at the same time.”

Laws may not be the only factor affecting how easy or difficult it is for people contemplating suicide to obtain a firearm. But a citywide analysis by New York University and Evertown found a similar relationship between politics and death rates.

At the state level, a higher population is not necessarily associated with higher numbers of suicides with a gun—in fact, some of the least populated states have the highest rates.

Understanding determinants

“We can’t fully address city violence until we acknowledge the growing and often unstated role that gun suicide plays in our country’s epidemic of gun violence,” says Megan J. O’Toole, deputy director of research at Everytown for Gun Safety.

Analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data for more than 750 cities with 50,000 or more people found that 4 out of 10 suicide deaths are caused by firearms, 7,000 per year.

Cities in states with the strongest gun violence prevention laws had half as many gun suicides as those in states with weaker laws, paralleling the KFF results. ‘Strength’ is determined by country Weapon Law Rating System Developed by Everytown.

The prevalence of gun shops had a stronger association with deaths from suicide with a gun, with rates being four times higher in the upper range (more than 10 shops per 100,000 residents) than the lowest (less than 3 per 100,000).

In cities with a dearth of walkable neighborhoods or parks, gun suicide rates were higher—double the suicide rates in those with the largest green spaces.

Park access and walkability are among the metrics included in the City Health dashboard. Including firearms data on the dashboard allows city planners and health officials to examine the relationships between gun violence numbers and other social, health, and environmental metrics. It can be viewed at the city or census level.

One place to start might be life expectancy, Gurevich says. “There is a lot that goes into life expectancy, and sometimes the difference can be very significant across neighborhoods. That can spark a conversation about what could be driving that, and then one can turn to other measures.”


The metrics included in the Health City Dashboard include the social, economic, behavioral, and environmental factors that can affect health. Shown: Air quality details in Washington, D.C. (NYU Langone Health)


Strategies to keep firearms away from those considering self-harm are well understood, and not all of them require legislative action. Safe storage practices are essential. As of 2021 only 14 states It had secure storage or gun lock requirements. Whether or not these laws are in place, gun owners have a great responsibility for safe storage.

in Claytown be clever The campaign offers a variety of training resources related to safe storage that can be used by local jurisdictions and organizations, and its volunteers routinely provide training in communities. Gun stores can contribute to educational efforts, O’Toole says, and provide third-party storage.

High risk protection ordersalso known as “red flag” laws, establish a legal mechanism that includes due process by which firearms can be removed from people who have threatened violence against themselves (or others). Nineteen countries Enacted such laws.

Gurevich notes that the majority of people who have attempted suicide had seen a health professional in the month prior to their attempt. Opportunities to screen for symptoms are missed, and services must be available to those in distress.

O’Toole says barbers, beauticians, friends and family are also part of the prevention infrastructure. “We all have a role to play in reducing gun suicide.”

If you know someone contemplating suicide, help is available at 988, the lifeline for suicide and crises.

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