New Resource Urges Lawmakers to Combat Rising Suicide Rates By Enacting Proven Lifesaving Solutions  

Guns Are Used in Just 5% of Suicide Attempts But Result In 50% Of All Suicide Deaths

WASHINGTON DC — As our nation struggles to combat a deadly gun suicide crisis that has claimed over 300,000 Americans since 2000, a new report released today in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week highlights the lethal nexus between gun access and suicide. Published by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide urges lawmakers to combat rising suicide rates by enacting proven lifesaving solutions.  

“The relationship between easy access to guns and suicide rates is undeniable. Guns are only used in 5% of suicide attempts but result in nearly 50% of all suicide deaths,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Too many Americans, including lawmakers, buy into the myth that suicide is inevitable and that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Our new report gathers research from across the field to prove that prevention is possible. Smart gun laws are already saving lives from suicide in the states with the courage to pass commonsense policies like waiting periods for gun purchases and universal background checks. It’s past time that lawmakers in other states step up, push back against the gun lobby’s bullying, and commit themselves to fighting an epidemic that claims over 20,000 American lives each year.”

Today, half of all suicides result from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Yet the link between gun access and suicide risk remains dangerously misunderstood, denied, or ignored. While the gun lobby continues to perpetuate the myth that guns play no role in suicide, the reality is the vast majority of people who attempt suicide survive their attempt—unless they use firearms. This new report outlines some of the key steps lawmakers can take to address this public health crisis. These steps include:

  • Passing Universal Background Checks: Federal law prohibits some people with the most severe histories of mental health impairments and suicidality from accessing firearms, including people who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for their own safety. But current loopholes in the background check system let some prohibited individuals acquire guns from unlicensed sellers without a background check in many states.  

  • Passing Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) Laws: Many severely mentally ill individuals fall outside the federal definition of a prohibited purchaser, which enables them to buy guns. An ERPO creates a standard civil court process that empowers families to temporarily remove firearms from their loved ones who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • Empowering Voluntary Gun Removals: In some cases, family, friends, therapists, or physicians can successfully convince a struggling person to temporarily hand over their firearms. Lawmakers should encourage or require local law enforcement to develop clear protocols to accept and temporarily store firearms voluntarily relinquished by suicidal individuals.

  • Enacting Waiting Periods: Suicide attempts are typically impulsive, singular episodes that involve little planning. By adding a small but crucial cooling off period for people purchasing guns, lawmakers can help prevent at-risk people from immediately acquiring the most lethal means of suicide during acute crises.

  • Promoting Safe Storage Responsible: Gun storage practices and laws blocking minors from purchasing their own guns can be credited with saving many young people’s lives. Laws that make it harder for minors to access unsecured guns and ammunition help to prevent senseless tragedies.

  • Promoting Smart Gun Technology: Smart guns could be a potential game-changer for suicide prevention efforts, particularly among youth. If a child’s parents, neighbors, and extended family members could use the same user-authentication features on their gun as they have on their phone, thousands of young lives would be saved. Lawmakers can help promote these gun safety innovations by enlisting consumer and product safety agencies to test and certify new models’ safety and reliability.

  • Strengthening and Protecting Doctors’ Ability To Save Lives: Doctors and other healthcare professionals are commonly expected to talk with patients about their safety and well-being, and play a critical role in identifying and treating patients at risk of suicide. But a relatively small number of primary care professionals receive suicide prevention training and too few incorporate counseling about suicide and gun safety into their routine patient care. Improving primary care providers’ knowledge and training about suicide prevention is important because these providers come into frequent contact with patients at high risk of suicide.  

Read the full report: Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide