Despite the downward trend in violent death rates across the United States, suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.
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The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause, claiming more lives than homicide or heart disease. In 2017, the most recent federal data shows, 47,173 people in America took their own lives. Between 1999 and 2017, the suicide rate jumped 33 percent.
Our country’s suicide problem is also a gun violence problem. Firearms are involved in about half of all suicide deaths, yet this connection is often overlooked. Gun advocates have been slow to acknowledge the extra risks posed to suicidal people who have easy access to a firearm. Some insist that gun suicides should not be counted as gun violence, even though they account for 60 percent of gun deaths.
“Suicide is almost entirely ignored within the discussion of guns in the United States,” wrote researcher Michael Anestis, in his book Guns and Suicide: An American Epidemic. He noted that when discussing gun deaths, most news media stories and politicians fixate on homicides or accidental shootings. “With the national suicide rate climbing annually, I would argue that continuing to ignore suicide when discussing guns is costing thousands of American lives every year.”
The Trace has prepared this statistical guide to illuminate the links between guns and suicide and to identify some solutions that could save lives.