Be SMART: Recognize the Role of Guns in Suicide

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots gun violence prevention organization, has a program called BeSMART that teaches adults how to store firearms responsibly and prevent unintentional shootings. My last column discussed the third part of the acronym, which stands for “ask about unsecured guns in other homes.”

The next topic we will talk about is the “R” in the BeSMART acronym: Recognizing the role of guns in suicide. Gun violence has a devastating impact on American children. Nearly 40 percent of child gun deaths are suicides — almost 600 child gun suicides each year. One study showed that over 80 percent of children under the age of 18 who died by gun suicide used a gun belonging to a parent or relative. For people of all ages, access to a gun increases the risk of death by suicide by three times.

As your children get older, you should continue to evaluate your storage methods. If you’ve been using a simple cable lock, you may want to think about getting a gun safe. We all know how curious children can be, so as they get older and more resourceful we need to act accordingly. Also, if you know your loved one is in distress, you might want to consider temporarily removing a gun from your home.

Take this information into consideration:

  • Most people who attempt suicide do not die – unless they use a gun.
  • In fact, 85 percent of suicide attempts with a gun result in death—a much higher fatality rate than any other means of self-harm.
  • This contributes to the fact that nearly 40 percent of child suicides involve a gun.

If you consider temporarily removing a gun from your home, you have several temporary storage options.

  • Local law enforcement may be willing to temporarily store your guns.
  • Some licensed gun dealers or gun ranges may be willing to temporarily store your guns.
  • Or, you could temporarily store your guns in the home of a friend or family member. To manage risk for that friend or family member, you should lock any guns that you transfer, and not provide the key or code.

The national youth survey conducted by the CDC showed that 17 percent of high school students surveyed had seriously considered attempting suicide within the last year. One study showed that 41 percent of adolescents in gun-owninghouseholds report having “easy access” to the guns in their home.

Signs to look out for when concerned that a loved one may be suicidal:

  • Prolonged sadness and depression
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawing/Isolation
  • Aggression or agitation
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Talking about killing themselves

Research shows that responsible firearm storage is associated with a decreased risk of child firearm suicide. One study showed that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers.

Some additional key steps you can take to support your loved one include: inviting an honest conversation, listening and supporting your loved one, and encouraging them to see a mental health professional or a primary care physician.

About Moms Demand Action: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America  ( is a grassroots, non-partisan movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from   gun violence and keep our families safe. Moms Demand Action has a chapter in every state and it is part of the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, with more than 5 million supporters.  Moms Demand Action works with survivors, mayors, law enforcement officers, faith leaders, educators, gun owners, doctors and communities across the country who know there is more we can do to prevent gun  violence. We do this work because every day 100 Americans die from gun violence and hundreds more are wounded.  

About Christine: Christine Jackson is the Chapter Leader for the Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand Action. She and her husband Neal are parents to two young sons. She was inspired to do the work of helping to end gun violence when she was seven months pregnant with her first son and the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened. She knew then that Mothers like her needed to get involved. She hopes that we will someday get to a place in this country where this work is no longer needed, but will keep going as long as it is.

Categories: Guest Blog