Center for American Progress

RELEASE: A High Percentage of Gun-Suicide Victims Are Current and Former U.S. Military Members, New CAP Report Highlights
Press Release

RELEASE: A High Percentage of Gun-Suicide Victims Are Current and Former U.S. Military Members, New CAP Report Highlights

Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress shows that a high percentage of gun-suicide victims are current and former U.S. military members. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System, the analysis finds that:

  • At least 8,710 current or former military members died by gun suicide from 2003 to 2019.
  • Roughly 23 percent of gun-suicide victims in 2019 were current or former military members.
  • Roughly half of all gun suicides of individuals ages 65 and older occur among current or former military members.
  • Current or former military members represent 1 in every 6 gun suicides among young Americans ages 18 to 34.
  • In 2019, close to 72 percent of suicides among current or former military members were perpetrated with a gun, compared with 50 percent among the overall population.

“Military members have significantly higher rates of gun ownership, which tends to present higher rates of gun suicide,” said Eugenio Weigend Vargas, director of Gun Violence Prevention at CAP and co-author of the report. “Easy access to firearms, combined with a lack of timely mental and physical health services, has had devastating consequences for many of our service members. Policymakers must act swiftly and comprehensively to address this problem.”

The report issues a number of policy recommendations, including increasing public awareness about the role of firearms; prioritizing timely physical and mental health services; disrupting access to guns for those in crisis and encouraging safe storage practices among veterans; and passing waiting period laws as well as laws that allow extreme risk protection orders. By taking these steps, policymakers can help save lives and better support the roughly 18 million military veterans in the United States today.

Read the report: “Gun Suicides Among Former and Current Military Members” by Eugenio Weigend Vargas and Marissa Edmund

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Tricia Woodcome at twoodcome@americanprogress.org.