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By Joe Bartozzi

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.”, 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:
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741


Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation


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  1. If you want to commit suicide be in your 90s and check yourself into a hospital. Chances are good a death panel will take over from there. If you change your sucidal mind you’d better have someone who knows the game watch your back 24/7 or if someone is not available tell the entire staff about your brother in law malpractice attorney.

  2. “…the number of Americans who died by suicide in 2020 remained lower than in each of the previous four years.”

    That surprises me, considering the economic devastation the ‘Rona did to so many with bankruptcy, etc…

  3. If we are talking about suicide by firearm, that would be one thing, but with the tightening down on opioids and the issuing of Narcan to first responders, many overdose deaths have been prevented. These were often listed as suicides, even if they were accidental.
    Being able to save people is a good thing, but I don’t really believe that the rate of actual suicides has changed. Many people OD and “try” suicide(seeking attention).
    If someone really wants to do it, we won’t stop them. I just wish they would try another way than firearms – that makes even more people think guns are evil.

  4. Firearms now account for <50% of suicides.

    "Suffocation" and "poisoning" (i.e. drugs) have been trending.

    Another fact: Its not your teenage kid likely to kill themselves. This gets a lot of media attention. Its far more likely to be your middle/late age person.

    • There is no breakdown for 2020. For 2019, suicide by firearms was 50.4%. For 2018, it was 50.5%. So not quite less than half.

      For perspective, this was ~66% in the early 90s, and has been trending down.

  5. government lockdown definitely responsible for these two jumps in death:

    1. “unintentional injuries” increased by about 20,000 deaths. an 11% jump. the increase was “mostly driven by drug overdose deaths” which are considered “deaths of despair”.

    2. deaths from Alzheimer disease jumped nearly 10% or about 13,000 additional deaths. these were elderly who were locked down in long-term care facilities away from family.

  6. I’m sorry but I just don’t believe it after a full year of hearing stories coming out of hospitals about skyrocketing suicides and suicide attempts due to totalitarian covid lockdowns and the strain of being locked up at home for months and months. The government and the medical establishment lied to, bullied, and terrorized America all year long, they’re lying about this, too, to cover up the massive number of deaths caused by their lockdowns.

  7. Yeah…I bet some of the 80,000 or so estimated drug overdoses were NOT accidents…just sayin’…

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