September is National Suicide Prevention Month. More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide every year, and more than half of those deaths involve guns. To put that number in perspective, almost five times as many Americans will die this year from self-inflicted gunshot wounds than died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Our mission is to fight for the laws we know will save lives, and that includes ones that prevent suicide. The gun lobby likes to treat these deaths like they don’t matter. They claim it’s not a gun issue. That if we keep guns out of the hands of suicidal people, they’ll just find another way. We refuse to accept that, and the data backs us up. Some facts from Harvard University’s School of Public Health:
- Suicide is often impulsive: 71% of attempts take place within one hour of making the decision
- Suicide attempts with a gun are 85% fatal—more than all other methods combined
- Gun availability is a significant risk factor: 52% of suicides involve firearms
A compelling new study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined the Law Center’s data to measure the impact of gun laws on suicide rates. They found that, just like with gun death rates, gun suicide rates—and overall suicide rates—are significantly lower in states with smart gun laws such as safe storage, waiting periods, and universal background checks.
Laws are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to stopping suicide. Access to better healthcare and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness are also essential steps that save lives.
For more information on how smart gun laws can reduce these types of deaths–especially for teenagers, who are at a particularly high risk–read and share our Commonsense Solutions toolkit on mental health, produced with our partners at Americans for Responsible Solutions.
We won’t let the gun lobby bully our leaders into thinking that certain lives don’t “count” when it comes to gun violence. And we won’t stop fighting for lifesaving smart gun laws until every American is protected from the devastation of gunfire.