Study examines suicide rates in Utah in relation to firearms

SALT LAKE CITY -- New numbers released Wednesday gives us a grim look into Utah’s suicides rates and their relation to guns. It’s the first study of it’s kind conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, linking firearms and suicides.

  • 85% of firearm deaths in Utah were suicides (2006-2015)
  • Suicides outnumber homicides 8 to 1 in Utah
  • Firearms account for half of all suicides
  • 91% of firearm suicides among youth under 18 occurred at home

Those are just a glimpse of the findings given to lawmakers Wednesday.

“We found that 85% of the time someone dies by firearm in Utah is actually by suicide, which we know is very preventable,” said Representative Steve Eliason.

The study also shows

  • 1/2 of Utahns who took their lives were treated at hospitals the year before; diagnosed with self-harm or behavioral health problems
  • 87% who took their lives would have passed a background check on the day of their death
  • One in four Utah men who used a gun to take their own life had a current of lapsed concealed carry permit

“It gave us lots of opportunities to see where we can improve our prevention efforts both at the community level with gun owners with their families and with social services agencies,” said Kim Myers, Suicide Prevention and Crisis Administrator for the Department of Human Resources.

“Some of the data that came out of this is going to be helpful in future legislation, including a bill I announced today, and the committee passed that unanimously,” Eliason said.

The bill focuses on an education based campaign to help firearm owners understand how to properly store a firearm, especially when someone in the home is facing a crisis. The study found a death is more likely to be a result of suicide rather than confronting an intruder.

“If someone is going to die via that firearm, it's by far most likely their own family, said Eliason, "and that method would be by suicide."

Gun advocates support these steps to saving lives.

“We'll be able to reduce suicides and preserve our firearm rights without additional government mandates, and that's what we've been looking for all along,” said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.

You can find the entire study’s findings here.