Dave Finkelnburg

Dave Finkelnburg

Support Local Journalism

Here are some facts about guns. Before you turn away, this is not an attempt to change your, or anyone else’s, opinion. Rather, it is intended to inform those who are willing to listen.

Suicides, not homicides, are the leading cause of gun deaths in America. More than half of all suicides in the US in 2020, the last year for which there are complete records, were committed using firearms. Over 24,000 Americans shot themselves to death that year.

More than 20,000 Americans died of non-suicide shooting deaths in 2020.

The gun homicide rate per 100,000 people in the U.S. declined from 7.2 in 1975 until increasing dramatically during the pandemic. In 2020, the rate was 6.2.

That’s still 14 percent lower than in 1975. Meanwhile the national suicide rate has increased to roughly 12 per 100,000 people.

Between suicides, homicides, law enforcement shootings and accidents, firearms killed about 45,000 Americans in 2020. For perspective, that’s about as many as the number of us who die in auto accidents, or from falls and other mishaps, every year.

School shootings in the US get the most press, as they should, and they must stop. I’ll address that topic in a separate piece because they are so important.

Meanwhile, Wyoming, Louisiana, and Mississippi reported the highest rate of gun deaths in the US in 2020, more than 25 per 100,000 residents. California and New York were among the lowest, with fewer than 10/100k. Idaho was in the middle range at 15.1-20/100k.

Americans bought almost 23 million guns in 2020. That’s according to Forbes magazine.

A number of sources, including Gallup, and the Pew Research Center, agree that about 40 to 44 percent of Americans either own a gun or live in a home where guns are owned. Collectively we own at least 400 million guns.

For Americans overall guns are well down the list of causes of death, ranking below 15th among the reasons we die, as reported by the federal government. That changes dramatically, however, for the young.

For kids 5 to 14 guns rank fourth as a cause of death. Between ages 15 and 24 they’re the second leading cause of death. Only accidents cause more deaths in that age group. From ages 25 to 34, just accidents and drugs are more deadly.

A study published in The American Journal of Medicine summed this up graphically. Among all the developed countries on earth put together, 91 percent of kids younger than 15 killed by guns were Americans.

There’s a powerful correlation between the statistics about gun deaths and suicides between the ages of 5 and 34. It’s even stronger in the ages between 10 and 24.

What does all this add up to? Remember the second paragraph? The one that points out that suicides are so often accomplished with a gun?

There are two things at work here. For those familiar with guns—predominantly boys and men or those who have served in the military—a gun is the means of choice for suicide.

Committing suicide isn’t easy. Overall, there are more than 20 attempts for each completed suicide. When a gun is used, however, the result is far more lethal.

Studies have shown very clearly that if no gun is available, the odds of a suicide being committed are dramatically lower. Studies estimate that guns removed from the home or secured in safes — without the key or combination available to those at risk — could reduce America’s rate of gun suicides by a third.

Think about it. It wouldn’t require passing a single law or regulation. Nobody’s gun rights would be restricted. The direct action could save 8,000 lives a year, immediately.

Dave Finkelnburg is a longtime Idahoan, a former newspaper journalist, and is currently semi-retired from an engineering career.