Nearly two-thirds of gun-related deaths in Va. are suicides

Area New Mexico counties pass resolutions protesting gun control legislation. (Source: Gray News)
Area New Mexico counties pass resolutions protesting gun control legislation. (Source: Gray News)(Gray News)
Published: Jun. 17, 2019 at 10:35 AM EDT
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As state lawmakers prepare to reassemble in Richmond for a special session on gun control after the Virginia Beach shooting, this statistic will likely be repeated often: In Virginia, more than 1,000 people die due to gun violence every year.

That equates to almost three people every day. Guns take more lives than car crashes.

And nearly two-thirds of those gun-related deaths in Virginia are suicides.

In 2017, almost 65 percent of gun-related deaths in Virginia were suicides, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s annual report.

While the number of gun-related homicides has crept down in the past three years — dropping by about 30 between 2016 and 2018 — the number of gun-related suicides has been slowly rising since 1999.

“There tends to be this incorrect and false sense of fatalism about suicide, and I think it makes it hard sometimes for policymakers or others to feel like we can do anything,” said Jon Vernick, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

“And that’s just wrong.”

Though the 2018 numbers aren’t finalized yet, preliminary data shows that, of the 1,035 deaths due to guns in Virginia last year, 674 were suicides.

In 2017, about half of the 1,157 suicides that occurred in the state involved a firearm.