What We Know

Information and facts we know through thorough, peer- reviewed research. 



  • Suicide overall is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with the rate of gun suicides, specifically, increasing since 2007 (1) 

  • Firearms are the most common means of suicide in the US, responsible for 51% of Suicide deaths in 2016. (1) 

  • 59% (22,963) of the total 38,658 gun deaths in the United States were suicides. (1)

  • Gun suicides are especially high amongst white individuals, representing the second leading cause of death in white individuals between 15-34 years old (1) 

Suicide is an impulsive decision, with at least 40% of suicide attempts occurring within 5 minutes after an individuals' first thought of committing suicide. The rate of successful suicide is therefore determined by ease of access to lethal means, such as firearms (2). Firearm suicide attempts are more likely to be successful than attempts using any other means with 82.5% of firearm suicides resulting in death, with other means such as medication resulting in death only 1-2% of attempts. (3) It was also found that 90% of people who attempt suicide and survive will not die by suicide later on and 70% would not attempt suicide again. (4) 

A significant association has been found between the strength of a state's firearm laws and a lower rate of firearm suicides, indicating that state policies may have a considerable benefit on reducing suicides. (5, 6)


The United State's firearm homicide rate is greater than 25 times that of other comparable developed countries (7).


  • Homicide is one of the leading causes of death in younger populations: 

    • 1-9 years: 4th leading cause of death (1) 

    • 10-24 years: 3rd leading cause of death (1) 

    • 25-44 years: 5th leading cause of death (1) 

There is also a considerable demographic discrepancy in the rate of those affected by homicides. Homicides overall are ranked 7th in the leading causes of death for black individuals, but is not ranked among the top 10 for any other race groups.(1) The racial disparity increases even more when considering only firearm homicides; black men experience more firearm homicides annually than other races across states, despite representing 14% of the US population (8, 9)

Firearms are the most prevalent method used to conduct homicides, constituting nearly 73% of homicides (12,979) annually.(10)

A significant, positive association was found between state-level gun ownership and firearm homicides in which a 1% increase in gun ownership correlated with an 0.9% increase in firearm homicides. It is especially important to note that no association was established with non-firearm homicides. (11)

unintentional injury

  • UNINTENTIONAL FIREARM injuries were responsible for almost 500 deaths and over 21,000 nonfatal injuries in 2016 (1)

  • in states where people are less likely to have guns locked, there are appreciably higher rates of unintentional injury (12)


Distressingly, one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States to unintentional firearm injuries is the pediatric population, which has an unintentional firearm mortality rate 5.5 times higher than that of other high-income, developed countries (13). Moreover, unintentional firearm injuries constituted 1/3 of all pediatric firearm injuries. These injuries are entirely preventable; evidence that shows child-access prevention laws can reduce the prevalence of unintentional firearm injuries (14, 15).

In 2002, a study found that 1.7 million children live in a home with loaded, unlocked guns, increasing their risk of death in unintentional shootings by more than 16 times that of other countries (16). Furthermore, about 660 children are hospitalized annually for nonfatal, unintentional injuries caused by firearms (17). 

Gun violence: A DISEASE?

An epidemiological study of violent gunshot episodes between 2006 and 2014 discovered that 63.1% of the 11,123 gunshots in Chicago, Illinois were accounted for by social contagion (18).  The results of this study indicate that gun violence may spreads like a disease, through person-to-person interactions, an epidemiological transmission process similar to that of blood-borne pathogens

By studying the epidemiology of gun violence, we can find more efficient ways of treating gun violence and preventing its spread through proactive measures and tested intervention mechanisms. 


(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2016) {cited Jul 10}. Available from: www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars 

(2) Simon, Thomas, et. al. "Characteristics of impulsive suicide attempts and attempters." Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 32 (2001): 49-59. 

(3) Spicer, R.S. and Miller, T.R. Suicide acts in 8 states: incidence and case fatality rates by demographics and method. American Journal of Public Health. 2000:90(12);1885.

(4)  Barber, Catherine W., and Matthew J. Miller. "Reducing a suicidal person’s access to lethal means of suicide: a research agenda." American journal of preventive medicine 47.3 (2014): S264-S272.

(5) Kaufman, Elinore J., Morrison, Christopher N. and Branas, Charles C. "State Firearm Laws and Interstate Firearm Deaths From Homicide and Suicide in the United States." JAMA Internal Medicine 178(5): 692-700.

(6)Owens D, Horrocks J, and House A. Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2002;181:193-199.

(7) Grinshteyn, Erin and Hemenway, David. "Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries, 2010." The American Journal of Medicine 129, no. 8 (2016): e141. 

(8) http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2679556/comparison-rates-firearm-nonfirearm-homicide-suicide-black-white-non-hispanic

(9) US Census Bureau Public Information Office. “2010 Census Shows Black Population Has Highest Concentration in the South - 2010 Census - Newsroom - U.S. Census Bureau.” U.S. Trade with Haiti, 19 May 2016, www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn185.html.

(10) “National Center for Health Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Mar. 2017, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm.

(11) Siegel M, Ross CS, King C. "Examining the relationship between the prevalence of guns and homicide rates in the USA using a new and improved state-level gun ownership proxy." Injury Prevention 2014; 20: 424-426. 

(12) Miller, Matthew, et al. "Firearm storage practices and rates of unintentional firearm deaths in the United States." Accident Analysis & Prevention 37.4 (2005): 661-667.

(13) Nordin, Andrew, et al. "In harm's way: unintentional firearm injuries in young children." Journal of Pediatric Surgery 53, no. 5 (2018): 1020-1023. 

(14) Cummings, P., D. C. Grossman, F. P. Rivara, and T. D. Koepsell, “State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms,” JAMA, Vol. 278, No. 13, 1997a, pp. 1084–1086.

(15) DeSimone, J., S. Markowitz, and J. Xu, “Child Access Prevention Laws and Nonfatal Gun Injuries,” Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 80, No. 1, 2013, pp. 5–25.

(16) Okoro, Catherine, et al. "Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002." Pediatrics 116, no. 3 (2005): e370-e376.

(17) Leventhal, John, et al. “Hospitalizations due to firearm injuries in children and adolescents.” Pediatrics 133, no. 2 (2014): 219-225.

(18) Green, Ben, et al. "Modeling contagion through social networks to explain and predict gunshot violence in Chicago, 2006 to 2014." Jama Internal Medicine 177 (2017): 326-333.)

(19) Parikh, Kavita, et al. "Pediatric firearm-related injuries in the United States." Hospital pediatrics (2017): hpeds-2016.

(20) “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6729a4.htm?s_cid=mm6729a4_w.