Update: Percent of Suicides Committed with Guns v. Per Capita number of Guns

Red Flag Mental Health Watch List Mass Murder iStock-1050228748
Update: Percent of Suicides Committed with Guns v. Per Capita number of Guns iStock-1050228748

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- The terms firearms and guns are used interchangeably in this article.  The article is updated from an earlier article published in 2016. The graphic adds data from 2015-2020, six more years.

The number of firearms in private hands has been rising for at least 75 years.  During the last 25 years, the number of murders, murders with guns, and violent crimes with guns dropped sharply, then leveled. It has risen a fraction of the drop in the last three years.

The per capita rate of firearms ownership has increased significantly.

It has become very difficult to uncritically believe more guns equals more crime.

Fatal gun accidents are at an unprecedented low.  The rate of fatal gun accidents has dropped 94% in 85 years and has leveled off.

As the concept that more guns caused more violent crime became discredited, those wishing a disarmed society changed the conversation by using the Orwellian term “gun violence”. Gun violence included suicides with all homicides and the rare fatal gun accident to create a term to promote restricting the right to keep and bear arms.

Per Capita gun ownership vs. Percentage of Suicides committed with guns. Per capita gun ownership represented by the blue line, percentage of suicides commited with guns shown by orange line.
Per Capita gun ownership vs. Percentage of Suicides committed with guns. Per capita gun ownership represented by the blue line, percentage of suicides commited with guns shown by orange line.

The obvious problem is: The number of guns in society is not associated with the number of suicides in society.

Some societies such as Japan and Korea have very high suicide rates and very low gun ownership rates.

There has been significant conjecture that the availability of guns in society causes an increase in suicides.

The theory, briefly, rests on these claims and conjectures:

  • Suicide is an impulsive act
  • Guns make suicide easy
  • More guns or access to guns results in a higher suicide rate.

The alternative hypothesis is:

  • The suicide rate is not determined by means, but by other, underlying factors.
  • There are multiple means to commit suicide, many of which are easily accessible.
  • Guns are one of many means which can be chosen. If there are fewer guns, other methods will be substituted.  (hanging, cars, tall buildings, etc)
  • Changes in gun laws will not change suicide rates.

A simple check on the “guns cause suicide” hypothesis is to see if increasing per capita numbers of guns in society causes the overall suicide rate to increase, along with an increased percentage of suicides committed with guns.

If guns are simply one means of suicide, which is easily substituted, there should be more suicides with guns where there are more guns, but the overall suicide rate should not be affected.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has data for the number of suicides committed with guns since 1981. The rate of suicides were corrected for age distribution by the CDC.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives (ATF) has data on gun manufacture, imports and exports, from which the number of private guns and the per capita increase in gun ownership can be calculated.  The method used for determining the private stock of guns is that used by Gary Kleck, after being developed by Newton and Zimring.

The data show while the per capita ownership of guns has increased, and the rate of suicide has increased, the percentage of suicides with guns has decreased from the 1990s to 2006, then leveled off.

The percentage of suicides with guns dropped from a high of 61.1 % in 1990 to a low of 47.5% in 2018.

Several studies have found changes in gun laws have no effect on overall suicide rates but may change the number of suicides committed with guns.

Guns have many positive uses, including defense of self and community, hunting, and recreation.

Suicide rates are not changed by the availability of guns in society.  People decide whether to commit suicide or not. 

Guns are one of many methods available.  Increasing suicide rates may result in more suicides being committed with guns. 


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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Watch um

I think that death by overdose of illegal drugs should be classified as unintentional suicide. It has been my belief that anyone who over use drugs are in fact trying to escape reality, in the youth population not so much except for peer pressure and to experiment.

If a person wants to die they will use whatever means are available at the time.

nrringlee

True story.

Tionico

there are, and long have been, many who turn to drugs to “turn out the lights”. Remember the “overdose suicides” from the fifties and sixties? Common way to go out.
We will never know whether George Floyd downed his lethal cocktail of street drugs to end it all, or to attempt to keep the coppers from finding them, as he had done a couple years earlier in Texas. But he knwoingly and willingly ingested that pile of poison.

Pa John

When it comes to fentanyl related deaths, the term should be poisoning, since so many of the people dying from fentanyl poisoning were not even aware they are taking fentanyl to begin with. The drug cartels are cranking out pills by the zillions which look exactly like the prescription medications you could be prescribed from your doctor, so people THINK they are taking pain killers and/or other opioids as per normal, and ending up dead because they contained deadly fentanyl instead. Oops. POISONINGS, not “overdoses”, especially in the case of taking pills which look exactly like prescription medications, but also… Read more »

Ledesma

This is an old one they haven’t used in a while. Suicide rates. However, they’ve been busy squealing about storage, toy gun eradication, and of course the new “hyper-extended’ background check.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ledesma
Tionico

Saw a piece, possibly right here, perhaps a couple years back that compared gun ownership rates in US with Canada. THEN they compared suicide rates between the two nations. Nearly identical. VERY similar demographics, socioeconomic stats, et.c. Next comparison was suicide by gun rates. Canada were radically reduced compared to US. However other means of self-extermination were far higher north of 49. Conclusion: SUicide was not increased by gun availability. Suicide by gun was, but, duhhhhh…… the Canucks simply selected another more readily available means to do the job.

Boz

Ban 10-story buildings! Do it for the children.

GomeznSA

Suicide by any means is tragic and likely CAN be prevented by timely and appropriate intervention. That being said, a determined person WILL find the opportunity and the means to ‘succeed’ sooner or later. One thing that is (intentionally?) minimized is that with the sheer number of guns as many as 600 MILLION in our hands, IF guns were the cause we would surely have way more suicide by gun than we do. I am NOT trying to minimize the damage to families caused by a suicide but we need to be more concerned with that result rather than trying… Read more »

nrringlee

The progressive, modernist perception of suicide is that it is a mental health problem. They treat it as a mental disease. They are unsuccessful. The progressive approach to crime is similar. They treat crime as a social problem and deal with it by supposedly scientific means. They fail. Recidivism rates testify to that. Progressives and other modernists fail to see the spiritual warfare going on daily against every human being. Then answer is faith. Progressives and socialists of all flavors fail to see the problem clearly so their solutions fail. Case in point. In 1976 I picked up some work… Read more »

Tionico

NR, have you read about the new current make-work-for-our-friends project being floated about that same bridge? Seems the netting you helped place is either gone or deemed “inadequate”. Proprosed cost, if I remember aright, is into ten figures. Makes me wonder what bigwig is connected to the contractor……. after all it IS California right?

hippybiker

They regurgitate the same BS as the false statistics about guns being the number one cause of death of young children. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the real reason is Motor Vehicle accidents of all kinds!
Like Hitler and Bill Clinton stated…”Tell the lie long enough and people will believe it!”

Tionico

how about the thousands of death by lethal injection, mislabelled as a “vaccine”?

Larry

Many years’ datasets show that fewer children under age 5 die from
handgun accidents (~5 annually) than are killed while DRIVING (that’s
right, DRIVING) motor vehicles (~9 annually).

TexDad

Stress, hardship, depression, loneliness, loss…

Means is not on this list.

lktraz

A case in point to debunk the thought that gun/firearm availability equals use as a suicide means would be that of a fellow I knew. This man and his son were prolific hunters and recreational shooters and as such owned a rather large number of rifles, shotguns and handguns. There was no doubt he had ready availability of a large number of firearms and ammunition. He made some bad decisions concerning his marriage and the results led to him falling into a cycle of deep depression and alcohol abuse. At this time he still had open access to all of… Read more »

Tank

Homo Sapiens Sapiens have been committing suicide for a very long time. Way before the invention of firearms. Let’s combine all the other socioeconomic – sociocultural factors into the equation for a clearer picture for real deal metric of logos. Cherry picking & parsing data & coupled w/ zero transparency serves the people & veritas exactly how ? Cui Bono Cui Plagalis ? Massive economic depression that ZEWSmedia won’t talk about. One of the things masking that fact is the amount of people on the gubMINT’s dole through a multitude of various programs. How many people lost their jobs from… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Tank
Sambo

This is an interesting look at a problem which is plaguing us. Apparently a deeper look into the statistics shows that availability is reason guns are chosen but it is simply because of that availability that another means is not chosen. There needs to be more study of this. When guns are not available do suicide rates decrease? What has happened in countries where the availability of guns? What do their rates show?

DIYinSTL

Like Dean said, suicide rates in developed countries like Japan and Korea are much higher than in the U.S. which suggests it is more of a societal problem. Several years ago a popular choice for suicide in Japan was to throw ones self in front of a train/subway engine. A law was introduced to fine the decedent’s family for interruption of service so that method quickly lost favor. I’m not sure if there is a lesson there for us.

CourageousLion

Of course families should be liable…HUH? It’s like the automobile accidents in Japan. Both drivers are charged. If it is your fault you get 75% of the blame. If not you get 25% of the blame. Or some amount similiar. After all…Japanese aren’t too smart when it comes to certain aspects of reality.

Tionico

Japanese, culturally, are VERY MUCH into family responsibility and honour. After the fine was emplaced the game was changed. NO ONE would dishonour their family by causing them to face the legal embarrassment and cost of paying for their own checkout. So they obviously have been selecting other methods.

CourageousLion

Read the article again…slowly.

Larry

Funny you should bring that up.

California likes to boast of having the fewest “gun deaths” of all 50 states. Yet when you examine the number, you discover it is because of the unusually low number of gun suicides they have. If you examine only gun homicides, they show up as #25, right in the middle of the pack. So all they’ve managed to do is prevent law-abiding people who would choose suicide by firearm — if they had one — from being able to have one.

Larry

These statistics are confusing. I don’t know whether you’re referring to the rate of suicide with guns as compared to the rate of non-suicide deaths with guns, or the rate of suicide with guns compared to the overall rate of suicide in the population, and they reveal very different things. Let me tell you what I notice first from looking at these stats from another direction. In very rough numbers, firearms-related deaths in the US have hung steady for decades at around 30,000, with roughly 2/3 of those being suicides, and the rest homicides. (Accidents are in the noise, at under 500.)… Read more »