Gun Suicides Linked to Weak Violence Prevention Laws

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States with weak gun violence prevention laws and higher rates of gun ownership have the highest gun suicide rates, says the Violence Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.

States with the lowest gun suicide rates have lower rates of gun ownership and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws.

The center based its conclusions on analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The analysis uses gun suicide rates in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

The state with the highest per capita gun suicide rate in 2016 was Montana, followed by Alaska. The center said both states have “extremely lax gun violence prevention laws as well as a higher rate of gun ownership”

The state with the lowest gun suicide rate was New Jersey, followed by Massachusetts. Each of these states has strong gun violence prevention laws and a lower rate of gun ownership.

The number of Americans killed in gun suicides increased to 22,938 in 2016 from 22,018 in 2015. The nationwide gun suicide rate in 2016 was 7.10 per 100,000, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2015’s gun suicide rate of 6.86 per 100,000.

The center’s Kristen Rand said that, “Firearms are the key factor in whether a suicide attempt is completed or not. Reducing access to firearms is a critical step in addressing this clear public health threat.”

In 2016, there were 44,965 suicides in the U.S., 123 per day and one suicide every 11.7 minutes. A firearm was used in more than half (51 percent) of cases.

The center defined states with “weak” gun violence prevention laws as those that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public.

States with “strong” gun violence prevention laws were defined as those that add significant state regulation that is not coverfed by federal law, such as restricting access to particularly hazardous and deadly types of firearms (for example, assault weapons), setting minimum safety standards for firearms and/or requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, and restricting the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report.

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