There is light at the end of the tunnel and some new data is worthy of solemn celebration. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released new figures showing the number of Americans who died by suicide in 2020 remained lower than in each of the previous four years.
That’s good news. After a year of coronavirus despair, government lockdowns causing increased economic anxiety and uncertainty, and increases in community violence, good signs are emerging as Americans have sensed a slow, but steady return to normalcy.
The firearm industry understands there is hard work still to be done to further reduce the instances of these tragedies. But NSSF has gone “all in” before and we’re not stopping any time soon.
Positive Trends: The Findings
The JAMA report shows last year under 45,000 Americans died by suicide. The figure represents a low mark over the previous four years. 2019’s number was 47,511; 2018’s was 48,344; the 2017 figure was 47,173; and 2016 was just above 2020’s total at 44,965.
You would be surprised to learn of the lower numbers if the media were to be believed. You couldn’t be blamed for it either. Throughout 2020, news outlets projected doom-and-gloom and the worst possible outcomes. ABC News posited, “COVID-19’s impact could include 20 more firearm suicides per day;” the New York Times asked, “Will the pandemic result in more suicides?;” and NPR suggested, “Experts fear COVID, rising gun sales, could bring increased teen suicides.”
Reason.com, reporting on the JAMA study, put the false assumptions down. “There was a lot of speculation last year that business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders associated with COVID-19 would cause suicide rates to spike. Now, the new evidence from the JAMA suggests this prediction may have been wrong.”
Firearm Industry is Partners in Prevention
As nearly two-thirds of all firearm-related deaths in America are the result of suicide, NSSF has remained committed to focusing on reducing this preventable tragedy. These efforts continue. The industry is a proud partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, to advocate for reducing suicide.
Our efforts include providing resources to help people better understand the warning signs of suicide. We are encouraging everyone, including those with military loved ones and veterans to have a “brave conversation,” and we provide, free of charge, educational materials and safe storage kits to firearm retailers, shooting range operators and gun owners. We continually urge them to understand possible warning signs and risk factors for suicide, and what preventative steps may be taken.
We have learned, and we now stress that it is okay to have a brave conversation and ask friends and family directly about suicide. The experts agree that bringing up the conversation doesn’t spark the idea but relieves those struggling with the notion. Suicide is preventable, and securing firearms is one of the most important steps gun owners can take to protect those at risk of suicide.
Real Solutions, Safer Communities
These all are industry-led efforts, guided by data, to help reduce the number of unintended firearm fatalities in the U.S. NSSF is gratified initiatives like those within our Real Solutions. campaign have had positive and lasting impacts. These firearm safety initiatives led to the lowest number of unintentional firearm fatalities in more than 100 years since record keeping began in 1903.
The 2020 JAMA figures are a positive sign and every aspect that led to the low figures should be praised. The firearm trade association will continue our decades-long effort to bring the tragedy of suicide even lower still.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press “1”.
Lifeline Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.