👀 Peep our recent profile in The Guardian.

It's the guns.

Gun violence touches every corner of America. But where there are fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths.

Scroll down to learn why

The United States is in the midst of a gun violence epidemic. On the average day in America, more than 130 people are killed by gun violence, and many more are wounded.

We have — by far — the highest rate of gun violence in the developed world.

Gun deaths per 100,000 people, by country
Note: This list includes country over 10 million population that are considered “high income” by the World Bank.

Not coincidentally, the United States also leads the world in another statistic — the number of guns in everyday people’s hands.

Gun ownership per 100 people, by country

Put the two together, and the picture becomes clear.

It’s the guns.

Guns owned vs. gun deaths, by country
Circles are sized by total gun deaths per country.
Gun deaths per 100,000 people, by country
Note: This list includes country over 10 million population that are considered “high income” by the World Bank.
Gun ownership per 100 people, by country

OK, but people have guns for a reason, right?

Yes, most people who buy a gun say they’re getting it to protect themselves and their family.

But when the going gets tough, guns actually aren’t that helpful. In a robbery or an assault, studies show people without a gun are just as likely to escape harm as people who are carrying one.

And in some cases, wielding a gun makes it more likely you’ll be injured.

Still, what’s the harm in having a gun?

Let’s break that question down. Which do you want to hit first?

Danger to yourself
Danger to yourself

What’s the danger to me?

Living in a house with a gun doubles the chance of dying by homicide. That gap persists even after controlling for other factors, including whether people in the home use drugs or have gotten in fights before. 

The even bigger risk? Having a gun dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll kill yourself. In fact, in the year after someone buys a handgun, their leading cause of death is suicide.

Just having a gun in a home more than triples the risk of suicide for people in the home. The risk for kids is even higher.

2x
Living in a house with a gun doubles the chance of dying by homicide.
3x
Living in a house with a gun triples the chance of dying by suicide.
But I’m a woman — isn’t it a good idea to protect myself?

Not with a gun. A California study showed that women who purchased a gun were 2 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than women who didn’t own guns.

What’s more, having a gun in a house makes a domestic violence dispute five times more likely to turn deadly for women.

And on top of all that, women who buy a handgun are 35 times more likely to end their own lives with a firearm.

Having a gun doesn’t keep women safe — it puts them at risk.

Not with a gun. Research suggests you’re more likely to be injured after fighting off an attacker with a firearm. And when confronting an active shooter, it’s rarely a “good guy with a gun” that saves the day — it’s most often an unarmed bystander.

Meanwhile, it’s men who are most often the  victims of gun violence. For every four murdered men, three were killed by guns. And having a gun around also increases the risk of suicide. Men who purchased a handgun are nearly 8 times more likely to end their own lives with a firearm.

Break the data down by race and the picture is even clearer: Black men are at highest risk of gun homicide. White men — particularly older white men — make up the bulk of gun suicides.

Many men buy guns because they want to keep their families safe. But the reality is that the gun they buy for protection is far more likely to be used against themselves or their loved ones.

With hate crimes on the rise — and more than 20 percent targeting LGBTQ+ people — it makes sense to be worried about safety. But getting a gun is likely to increase the danger.

As we talked about earlier, guns aren’t very effective in self-defense. 

And for people already at risk for suicide — nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth have considered ending their lives — guns dramatically raise the risk of death.

It’s understandable why you might feel unsafe. The statistics are bleak. 

Black people make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise more than half of all homicide victims. Latino kids and teens are at least three times as likely as white children to have experienced a gun homicide in their community in the last year. And AAPI communities are seeing a dramatic uptick in hate crimes.

But a gun won’t make you safer. The data are clear: the presence of a firearm is linked to a higher risk for suicide and gun violence in the home, it doesn’t add any protective benefit outside the home.

Children are especially at risk. Suicide rates for children of color jumped 25 percent between 1999 and 2020.

And Asian and Pacific Islander young people have the fastest-rising firearm suicide rate of any group, growing by 168% between 2011 and 2020.

Getting a gun may feel like the only choice you have to stay safe. But it’s far more likely to hurt you and the ones you love.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

You mentioned suicide earlier. Aren’t people who want to die by suicide going to find a way to do it, one way or another?

That’s a common belief. But it’s wrong. Nine of 10 people who attempt suicide survive, and people who survive a suicide attempt overwhelmingly do not go on to die by suicide.

The exception, of course, is when someone tries to kill themselves with a gun. When a firearm is involved, 90 percent of suicide attempts end in death.

Most people survive a suicide attempt — unless a gun is involved
Suicide outcomes, all methods: 8.5% fatal
Suicide outcomes, firearms only: 89.6% fatal

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

So it’s not that guns make people want to kill themselves — it’s that guns make suicide attempts more likely to end in death?

Exactly. There’s state-by-state evidence in support of this, too. States with more guns have a much higher suicide death rate. But if you factor out firearm suicides, the correlation disappears.

Guns don’t make someone suicidal. But the presence of a gun does make it very likely that a suicide attempt will result in death. That’s why suicide rates are four times higher for kids who live in homes with guns. It’s why the risk of suicide for women who own guns is 35x higher than for women who don’t. It’s why first-time male gun owners are 8 times more likely to die by gun suicide compared to non-owners.

When a gun is present, everything can change in an instant.

The facts are clear: It’s the guns.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Danger to teens & kids
Danger to teens & kids

Why are kids and teens at greater risk with a gun around? 

Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens — surpassing even car accidents.

More than half of those deaths were homicides — and at the same time, gun suicides are reaching a 20-year high. 

Guns are now the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. kids and teens

The impact of  gun violence on kids and teens goes beyond the number who are  killed or wounded: About 3 million children witness gun violence every year. And exposure to community violence is linked to adverse outcomes, including post traumatic stress symptoms, worsened school performance, and declines in cognitive functioning. 

Where there are more guns, children and teens are less safe.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Doesn’t secure gun storage solve this problem?

There’s no question: If you have a gun, it should be stored locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. 

But while most gun owners see themselves as responsible, more than half don’t store all of their guns safely. And studies have shown that nearly 40% of parents in homes with guns believe their kids can’t access a gun, but the kids can.

40 %
Even after learning about the dangers of guns, 40% of preteens pick up a hidden gun when they find one.
4.5 m
More than 4.5 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked firearms.

That has deadly consequences. An analysis from The Trace found that between May 2022 and April 2023, there were more than 160 accidental shootings by children under 13. More than two-thirds of the gunshots were self-inflicted and the median age for kids who fired the gun was age 4. 

Nearly 5 million kids and teens live with unsecured guns. Not only does this risk result in shootings at home, it can also impact the likelihood of school shootings. In two-thirds of school shootings, the shooter used a firearm taken from their home or a friend’s home.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Who’s most at risk?

Every child in America is at risk of experiencing gun violence — but Black children have the highest risk. Black children and teens were roughly five times as likely as their White counterparts to die from gunfire in 2021.

And suicide is growing quickly among young people of color, jumping 25 percent between 1999 and 2020. Black youth have the fastest growing suicide rate compared to their peers of other racial and ethnic groups, and firearms are the most common method of suicide among Black boys aged 19 and younger.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids have the highest risk of attempting suicide — and as we’ve said before, nine of 10 suicides by gun are fatal.

Gun homicide rate
for ages 1-18, by race
Gun suicide rate
for ages 1-18, by race

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or experiencing suicidal ideation, call or text 988 to reach the free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Danger to communities
Danger to communities

How does getting a gun put the broader community in more danger?

Simply put, communities with more guns have more gun deaths. They see more suicides and more homicides; they also see more mass shootings and fatal encounters with police.

The racial differences are pretty stark, especially for children. Just under 50 percent of Latino youth — and more than half of Black kids — lived less than a mile from a gun homicide in the past year.

What about mass shootings?

Having more guns doesn’t protect us from active shooters — in fact, it makes them more likely. 

For every 10 percent increase in gun ownership in a state, research shows the rate of mass shootings goes up 35 percent.

 

Does that mean we need more people with guns?

Getting a gun doesn’t solve the problem. States with permissive concealed-carry laws — meaning places where more people are carrying guns in public — actually have more violent crime, even when controlling for other factors.

A 2023 study found that counties that issued more concealed carry licenses had more homicides the following year, meaning that where more people are carrying guns, more people are killed.

+13 %
Violent crime rises by at least 13% in the decade after states make it easier for people to carry guns in public.

So… it’s the guns?

Yes. It’s the guns.

They’re rarely used in defense, and ineffective when they are. Having one in your home dramatically increases the risk you could lose your life to suicide, or that someone you love will get hurt. 

And on aggregate, they contribute to making our communities less safe.

Resources
Resources
  • Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner with a firearm than by a stranger with all methods combined.
  • A 2020 California study found that the risk of suicide is 35x higher for women who are gun owners, compared to women who do not own guns. And in the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among handgun purchasers, accounting for 51.9 percent of deaths among women 21 to 44 years old.
  • From 2006 to 2015, 36% of murders of young women between the ages of 15 and 29 were committed by an intimate partner or family member, and 54% of those murders were committed with a gun.
  • Access to a gun in domestic violence situations makes it 5x more likely that the woman will die. And a California study found that women who purchased a gun were 2x more likely to die by firearm homicide than women who did not own guns.
  • From 2006 to 2015, out of the more than 1,550 young women killed with a gun in domestic violence situations, 65% were murdered by a dating partner.
  • Every month, an average of 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.
  • Nearly half of mass shootings are domestic violence-related.
  • In 2017, for every time a woman used a firearm to kill in self defense, more than 60 women were killed with a firearm (43 vs. 2,606 cases).
  • Firearm violence was the second leading cause of death for Black women in 2012.
  • In a 2021 study of women experiencing houselessness, nearly half had been attacked with a gun as an adult.
  • A San Francisco study of women in unstable housing conditions found that 48% had experienced physical violence with a weapon.
  • Firearms are used in 1 in 2 homicides against Native people.
  • Indigenous people are more than twice as likely to be killed by gun violence than white people.
  • According to CDC data, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women have the second-highest homicide rate among all racial groups.
  • Among AI/AN people who are victims of injuries inflicted through intimate partner violence, a firearm is the most common mechanism of injury.
  • Half of Native women have been abused by an intimate partner. In cases of intimate partner violence, women are 500% more likely to be murdered when a gun is present in the home. And nearly 40% of American Indian and Alaska Native women who were murdered by an intimate partner were killed by firearm.
  • Among all racial and ethnic groups, AI/AN people have the highest rates of firearm suicide.
  • The rate of nonfatal firearm injuries among Indigenous people is over twice as high as that for white people – the second highest among any one racial group.
  • Gun violence in the AAPI community includes more than hate-motivated violence. Young Asians and Pacific Islanders have the fastest-rising firearm suicide rate of any group, growing by 168% between 2011 and 2020.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among AAPI adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years.
  • The Trevor Project found that in 2020, 40% of AAPI LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24 seriously contemplated suicide.
  • 73% of Asian American voters worry about hate crimes.
  • The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism reported a nearly 150% increase in hate crimes targeting Asian people in 16 of the largest American cities in 2020. Guns make the AAPI community less safe by providing a tool for violent, racist attacks.
  • According to the State of Safety survey, conducted in 2022, 71% of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) women reported feeling anxious or stressed due to fear of discrimination, harassment, or violence. In the United States, there are an average of 28 hate crimes every day involving a firearm, contributing to this atmosphere of fear and danger.
  • Mental illness is a significant risk factor for suicide, with suicide rates rising among all age groups since 2016. Access to a firearm triples one’s risk of death by suicide.
  • People with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it. And with rates of gun-related violent crime on the rise, people with mental illnesses are at more risk from guns than ever.
  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. gun deaths are suicides, with an average of 66 deaths a day.
  • In the past ten years, 40% of the suicides committed by kids and teens involved guns. And for 9 out of 10 of these suicides, the victims accessed the gun at their own home or a relative’s home.
  • Over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate among children and teens has increased by 59%.
  • In the first week after the purchase of a handgun, the firearm suicide rate among handgun purchasers was 57 times as high as the rate in the general population.
  • Higher rates of firearm ownership are strongly associated with higher rates of firearm suicide.
  • Gun suicide claims the lives of nearly 24,000 Americans every year.
  • The U.S. gun suicide rate is nearly 12 times that of other high-income countries.
  • Approximately 90% of gun suicide attempts result in death, compared to 4% of suicide attempts not involving a firearm. And most people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Access to guns makes suicide attempts more deadly, and prevents people in crisis from getting a second chance at life.
  •  
Young people
Women
Men
Latino people
Black people
Indigenous people
AAPI people
People with mental illness
LGBTQ+ people
Everyone