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. California law mandates that all homes where a minor may live or visit, guns, must be stored unloaded, locked and separate from the ammunition.
Means matter: of the commonly used methods of self-harm, firearms are the most lethal, with a fatality rate of 85 percent. Conversely, less than 5 percent of people who attempt suicide by other methods will die. Currently, firearms kill 40,000 Americans annually. Sixty percent of those deaths are suicides and 79 percent of them are white males over 65.
Shockingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults age 5 to 24. Sadly, these individuals are usually depressed, often impulsive, have poor judgement 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.
Note: where there are more guns, there are more suicides. 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.