September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and it brings unwelcome news on the relationship between guns and suicide. The first-ever city-level analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on firearm deaths found that the rate of gun suicides increased 11 percent between 2014 and 2020. Firearm homicide rates also increased over the period, by 18 percent. Mass shootings in 2022 have understandably provoked outrage, but more than half of all gun deaths in the U.S. are the result of suicide, Governing.com reports. Suicide itself is a greater factor in premature death that may be commonly understood. According to the CDC, in 2020 it was the second leading cause of death (after unintentional injury) for Americans ages 10-14 and 25-34. Among those 15-24 it was third (just behind homicide) and for those 35-44 it was fourth.
“When we think of firearms in cities and the harm they cause, our minds tend to go straight to the shooting of others,” says Marc Gourevitch of the Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and principal architect of the dashboard. “One lesson from this analysis is that it is important to focus attention on reducing the availability of guns to people who might be considering suicide.” The states with the fewest number of gun laws had the highest rate of gun suicides, two times higher than those in the “high” category. If all states had the rate of firearm suicide deaths found in states with the most gun laws, 15 percent of all suicide-related deaths might be averted.