The United States passed an ominous milestone in 2018. A record 24,432 people died by firearm suicide in 2018, according to data released in January by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s an increase of 578 from 2017 and the first time ever that more than 24,000 people have died by firearm suicide.
The CDC often takes more than a year to compile, analyze and release the data.
The national age-adjusted suicide rate ticked up slightly in 2018, from 14 per 100,000 people in 2017 to 14.2. The firearm suicide rate began a consistent upward trend starting in 2006. The nation’s overall suicide rate has been increasing for almost two decades and experts aren’t sure why.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call for help now. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a free service answered by trained staff 24 hours per day, every day. The number is 1-800-273-8255. Or text 273TALK to 839863.
“Something that we'd really like to look at more is social inequities and lack of hope in terms of upward mobility and how is this associated with the loss of interest in life,” said Dr. Kathleen Carlson, a professor of epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and leader of the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue initiative.
But Carlson said having access to firearms is also a significant contributor.
“Just having access to firearms is a major piece of the puzzle,” she said. “Firearms are by far the most lethal means and so I think that's why we're going to see a consistent proportion of suicides relating to firearms. In most cases they will result in death when one turns a firearm against themselves.”
Firearms account for roughly 50% of all suicides in the U.S. each year.
While the number of firearm suicides increased in 2018, the number of firearm homicides decreased by 584, bringing the annual number to 13,958.
In total, 39,740 people died by firearm in 2018, an average of 109 people every day.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.