Easy access to guns is driving America's suicide epidemic

Our country is experiencing a suicide epidemic. More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017—an average of 129 per day. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for more fatalities than many common diseases such as Parkinson’s, liver disease and hypertension. And the problem is getting worse—the suicide rate rose by about 30 percent in the last two decades, with increases for almost every age group.

Easy access to guns is a major cause of these horrifying numbers, according to a new report from my staff on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Firearms were used in more than half of suicides in 2017. Approximately 85 percent of suicide attempts with a gun end in death, compared to less than 5 percent without a gun.

There is a clear positive association between levels of household gun ownership and suicide rates. This is true not only for the population as a whole, but also for every age group and both men and women. Access to a firearm triples the risk of death by suicide.

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