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Guns Are Fatal

In the Independent‘s article about suicide there is no mention of firearms. Why?

Means matter: of the commonly used methods of self-harm, firearms are the most lethal with a fatality rate of 85 percent. Less than 5 percent of suicides by other methods are fatal. Currently, firearms kill 40,000 Americans annually. Sixty percent are suicides and 79 percent are white males over 65.

Keeping a firearm at home is a choice but a risky one. Most gun-owning Americans think their firearms make them safer. The reality is that access to a firearm increases the risk of suicide for all people in the household. There are 4.6 million American children living in households with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.

Shockingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults age 5 to 24. These children are usually depressed, often impulsive, have poor judgment and access to a gun. There may be warning signs, but almost half of survivors report less than 10 minutes of deliberation. So, a loaded gun in the home could be the difference between life and death.

Most gun owners report their firearm is for protection. Yet, only 2 percent of gun-related deaths in the home involve an intruder, 3 percent are accidental child shootings, 12 percent involve adult partners, and 83 percent are suicides.

Firearm owners are not more suicidal, but their attempts are more likely to be fatal and made with minimal planning during a short-term crisis.

Lessons learned: lock firearms appropriately, improve communication with all family members, and be available to listen with understanding.

Toni Wellen is chair of the Coalition Against Gun Violence.

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