NYAGV Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett’s letter to the editor about suicide and guns appeared in the May 27 issue of The New York Times under “A Rising Tide of Suicides, and Access to Guns.”  The letter was in response to a recent Times’ piece,  All the Lonely People,” by Ross Douthat, which discussed the sharp rise in suicides among the middle aged. According to Barrett, however, the article failed to adequately address the role of guns in suicides–over 50% of suicides are committed with guns, and suicide rates are double in states with weak gun laws. (See NYAGV’s fact sheet on firearms and suicides for more information.)

Barrett’s letter to the editor:

ny times logo

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat mentions the role of guns in suicide.

Suicides are nearly 62 percent of all gun deaths in the United States, and more than 50 percent of all suicides are committed with a gun. And that’s not all.

Suicide rates are nearly twice as high in parts of the country with weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership. Alaska, Wyoming and Montana have the highest gun suicide rates — 14 per 100,000 people — and New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have the lowest gun suicides, 2 per 100,000 people.

The reason for this disparity is clear. Gun ownership is higher in states with weak gun laws. People who have more ready access to guns are more likely to kill themselves with guns than people who don’t have such easy access.

In fact, a gun in the home increases suicide risk by 17 times. And because guns are so lethal, 85 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal, whereas other means are much less so.

If we care about reducing suicides in America, we need to address our gun problem.


Executive Director, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

Brooklyn, May 20, 2013