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Suicide by Firearm Among American Youth Hit 12-Year High in 2013

“The bottom line is: having a gun in the home dramatically increases the danger that a child will be shot and killed,” said Dan Gross, Brady Center president.
Image: Hand guns
Handguns are displayed at the Top Guns Arms booth at Rocky Mountain Gun Show Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Sandy, Utah.Rick Bowmer / AP

Suicide by firearm among American youth topped a 12-year high in 2013, with most of the deaths involving a gun belonging to a family member, according to a report from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence released Monday.

Some 876 youth, aged 10 to 19, took their own lives in 2013 with a firearm — an increase for the third straight year, said the center, which analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these deaths may have been prevented if a gun wasn’t easily accessible, the center said in its report, "The Truth About Kids & Guns: 2015."

“Millions of Americans have a gun in their homes thinking that it makes their family safer, but every day in our nation, dozens of these families learn just how dangerous and tragic that miscalculation can be,” Dan Gross, the center’s president, said in a statement. “The bottom line is: having a gun in the home dramatically increases the danger that a child will be shot and killed.”

States with the most gun deaths (Alaska, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Wyoming) had similarly high rates of gun ownership, while states with the fewest gun deaths (Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) had low rates of gun ownership, the center said.

Some 82 percent of the youth suicides took place with a gun belonging to a family member, usually a parent, the center said, adding that most unintentional shootings and school shootings involved a gun taken from a parent or relative.

“One of the most significant ways we can address this serious public health and safety issue is to educate parents about the risks of unsafe access to guns in the home,” Gross said. “Parents are the first line of defense against gun violence, so we all need to realize the risks and take the appropriate steps to make sure our kids do not have unsafe access to guns.”

The rise in suicide by firearms tracked a spike generally in youth suicide: In 2013, the most recent year for which detailed statistics are available, suicide surpassed homicide to become the second leading cause of death among children and teens after motor vehicles. The overall suicide rate among adolescents ages 10 to 19 increased 34 percent between 2007 and 2013, the center said.

Messages left for the CDC and The National Rifle Association of America seeking comment on the report weren’t immediately returned.