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New Report from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund Details Firearm Suicide Among Military Veterans and Key Ways to Prevent It

October 24, 2019

Approximately 11 Veterans Die Each Day by Firearm Suicide; Recommendations for Prevention Include Utilizing Red Flag Laws, Promoting Secure Storage and Raising Public Awareness

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund today released a new report on firearm suicide among veterans, drawing on an analysis of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data to shed new light on a public health crisis in which approximately 4,200 veterans die by gun suicide each year. Noting that most people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide, the report also recommends ways that people inside and outside the veteran community can help keep guns out of the hands of veterans who are experiencing a crisis.

“When someone is in crisis, easy access to a firearm can be the difference between life and death,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Firearm suicide is a public health crisis in the U.S., and the veteran community is heavily affected. The data paints a disturbing picture — and it also makes clear that interventions like Red Flag laws and public awareness campaigns can save lives.”

“Firearms make suicide attempts much more likely to be fatal, and veterans own guns at significantly higher proportions than non-veterans,” said Capt. Chris Marvin, U.S. Army, retired, a founding member of the Everytown Veterans Advisory Council. “It is crucial that we understand how access to firearms leads to death by suicide for veterans in crisis.”

Among other findings, the report shows:

  • Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than non-veterans.
  • Firearms are increasingly used in suicides among female veterans, the fastest-growing veteran group.
  • While the non-veteran firearm suicide rate in the United States has gone up 23percent from 2005 to 2017, this rate has increased 33 percent for veterans.

The report recommends:

  • Utilizing red flag laws to temporarily remove guns from people in crisis
  • Promoting secure firearm storage — including unloading the ammunition, locking the firearm and storing the firearm and ammunition in separate locations.
  • Encouraging health care professionals to talk about the risks of firearm access with their patients
  • Investing in additional research on the effectiveness of initiatives like the Gun Shop Project, which provides suicide prevention literature at firearm retailers
  • Studying which Veterans Health Administration services are most effective in preventing firearm suicide

Read the full report here.

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