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Everytown Releases New Research Highlighting Rate of Veteran Suicides With a Gun Is the Highest It Has Been in Over 20 Years


Report Reveals That From 2002 to 2021, Nearly 87,000 Veterans Died by Gun Suicide, 16 Times the Number of Service Members Killed in Action Over the Same Period

Report is Released as the House Passes Spending Bill with Dangerous Rider that Puts At-Risk Veterans at Greater Risk of Self Harm

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund today released a new report highlighting the devastating rise of firearm suicide among veterans. The report, entitled “Those Who Serve: Addressing Firearm Suicide Among Military Veterans,” is a new report analyzing this alarming trend within the veteran community and how easy access to firearms is leading to a devastating crisis among our veteran population.

Today’s new research shows that seven out of 10 veteran suicides are by gun, making the proportion of veteran suicides that are with a gun the highest it has been in over 20 years. From 2002 to 2021, nearly 87,000 veterans died by gun suicide – 16 times the number of service members killed in action over the same period. It is critical to recognize the role gun ownership plays in this growing crisis. The average firearm-owning veteran owns six guns, and a 2018 survey found that only one in three veteran gun owners store at least one of their firearms loaded and unlocked. Policies, programs and education that address the growing veteran suicide crisis must include information on the inherent risks of easy access to guns. 

“This research makes it abundantly clear that we must address the ongoing crisis of veteran suicide for what it is: a gun violence crisis,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, Senior Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Gun suicide among veterans is preventable and research proves that a buffer between a veteran being in crisis and having access to a gun—the most lethal means of suicide— is the quickest and most effective intervention. The best way to honor those who serve is to raise awareness about how these devastating tragedies can be prevented.”

“It is well documented that putting time and space between a veteran in crisis and a firearm can reduce suicidal risk and save lives,” said retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Brandon Brooks, a member of the Everytown Veterans Advisory Council. “Almost three-quarters of veteran suicides involve a gun. If we, as a society want to address this glaring public health crisis, we have to start with the role that guns play in veteran suicides.”

Yesterday, the House passed a spending bill with a dangerous rider that would upend the Department of Veteran Affairs’ decades-long practice of reporting veterans the VA has determined to be mentally incompetent due to injury or disease to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Under federal law and regulations, these veterans are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms, and reporting to NICS is the only way to ensure the FBI knows that these veterans are prohibited. If enacted, this rider will limit the life-saving work the VA has done to protect veterans from the irreversible harm that can occur when someone in crisis has access to a firearm, putting at-risk veterans at even greater risk of harming themselves.

“Lawmakers should be doing everything in their power to address the veteran gun suicide epidemic highlighted in this report — but instead, Congress is taking a big step backwards that will put vulnerable veterans at even greater risk,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Our elected officials should be prioritizing the safety of those who have served our country, especially those who are in danger of taking their own lives.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • From 2002 to 2021, nearly 87,000 veterans died by gun suicide. This is 16 times the number of service members killed in action over the same period.
  • An average of 18 veterans die by suicide in the United States each day, 13 of them by firearm.
  • Veterans are three times more likely to die by gun suicide than non-veterans.
  • The proportion of veteran suicides that are with a gun is the highest it has been in over 20 years—72 percent.
  • The number of service members killed in hostile action has been decreasing in recent years. In 2021, a total of 13 service members were killed by hostile action—the same number of veterans who die every day by gun suicide.
  • Since 2002, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander veterans saw the highest percent increase in their overall suicide rate, followed by American Indian and Alaska Native veterans, Black veterans, Hispanic veterans, and white veterans.
  • Just as veterans are more likely than the general population to die by suicide, veterans are also more likely to own firearms than non-veterans. The average firearms-owning veteran owns six guns and a 2018 survey found that only one in three veteran gun owners store at least one of their firearms loaded and unlocked. 

Firearm suicide is a preventable public health crisis. More information on gun suicide is available here. Additional resources for gun suicide survivors are available here.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call or text 988, or visit to chat with a counselor from the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress anywhere in the US.