Type of Firearm Used in Suicides: Findings From 13 States in the National Violent Death Reporting System, 2005-2015

J Adolesc Health. 2019 Sep;65(3):366-370. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.03.015. Epub 2019 Jun 18.


Purpose: Although household firearm ownership has been consistently associated with increased suicide rates in the U.S., scant data speak to the type of gun used in U.S. suicides. We address this research gap using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System Restricted Access Data Set, 2005-2015, by describing the types of guns used in firearm suicides over time, by urban versus rural residence, for the population as a whole, and separately among adolescents, and by sex, race, and age.

Methods: The types of firearm used by 44,540 firearm suicide decedents in 13 states from 2005 to 2015 are based on individual-level data from the National Violent Death Reporting System and urban-rural classification schemes from the National Center for Health Statistics. Rates are calculated using population data from the National Center for Health Statistics' CDC WONDER online database.

Results: Between 2005 and 2015, suicide rates by handguns, but not long guns, increased markedly in both urban and rural counties. Among adolescents, handgun suicide rates doubled over the study period in both rural and urban areas; long gun suicide rates increased modestly. Although handguns were used in nearly three fourths of firearm suicides for the population as a whole, long gun use was relatively higher in rural counties and among adolescents. In rural counties, long guns were used in 51% of adolescent male suicides.

Conclusions: Suicide prevention efforts that advise gun-owning families to reduce access to household firearms should focus not only on handguns but also on long guns, especially in rural areas and among households with adolescents.

Keywords: Firearms; Handguns; Long guns; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Firearms / classification
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gun Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Completed / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality
  • Young Adult