A recent study examined gun violence in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. The good news is that homicide by gun decreased overall, but the bad news is that suicide by gun increased 10-15 percent among young people. We’ve had a couple of posts about teen suicide, but I want to specifically discuss the issue of suicide and guns. Here is some basic information:

  • Access to firearms is associated with a higher suicide rate in a population.
  • The most lethal means of suicide is by firearm, which has an 85% fatality rate. In comparison, suicide attempts by taking poison have a 2% fatality rate (Please note that this does not mean poisonings aren’t incredibly dangerous! Anyone who has ingested poison needs medical care immediately to prevent death or permanent disability.)
  • Teens overall are more impulsive than adults, and this is thought to contribute to high rates of teen suicide. A teen without access to a gun, who is feeling suicidal, may turn to another method or may seek out a gun- but that other method will at least be less lethal, or perhaps the time before they can procure a gun is sufficient for second thoughts.
  • Protective factors against suicide include a loving family, involvement in athletics or other school activities, high academic achievement, and supportive friends- but teens with all these attributes have committed suicide.

Many families own guns, and many families involve their teens in activities related to firearms. Some families do not lock up their guns in such a way that their children cannot get hold of them. Many families do, but eventually trust their teens enough to let them know how to access the guns in the home.

The safest option in terms of gun safety is to have no guns in the home. Many people feel strongly that having a gun in their home is what’s best for them and their family. If you do choose to have a gun in your home, store it securely and out of reach. If you participate in gun-related activities with your teen, like hunting or target shooting, make sure you take the guns out of their storage, alone, and then turn them over to your teen, and that you then store them again when you are through, again alone.

If your teen already has access to your guns, I’d recommend you change the combination, recover the keys, or do whatever you need to to make sure that your teen uses firearms only under your direct supervision. Let them know why you’re doing this, and that it comes from a place of concern and not from a loss of trust.

Some people keep weapons in the home to protect against a possible home invasion. It’s very hard to get data on home invasion rates, because perpetrators are often charged with a myriad of crimes.  We do know that there are approximately 100 burglary-homicides each year. We also know that approximately 2000 youth commit suicide by gun every year. (Obviously, this doesn’t include accidents like the one recently in the news.)

If your teen is ever diagnosed with depression, or they are at a high risk for depression, I would recommend removing guns from the home, at least temporarily.

You can read more information about this topic here.

What are your thoughts on teens and guns? Do you think teens can ever be trusted with weapons, and without adult supervision? I’d love to hear your thoughts.