Youth Access to Firearms

Source of Firearms in Youth Suicides

Among the most tragic suicides are those by young people. Too often youths use their parents’ guns. An NVISS study of firearm suicides among youths ages 17 and under occurring over a two-year period in four states and two counties found that 82% used a firearm belonging to a family member, usually a parent. When storage status was noted, about two-thirds of the firearms had been stored unlocked. Among the remaining cases in which the firearms had been locked, the youth knew the combination or where the key was kept or broke into the cabinet.

Parents may believe that their guns are adequately “hidden” or that their kids would never use them in a suicide attempt. But studies show parents sometimes underestimate their children’s experience handling guns at home. In a study by Baxley and Miller, among gun-owning parents who reported that their children had never handled their firearms at home, 22% of the children, questioned separately, said that they had.

Safe storage makes a difference.

While the risk of youth suicide is lowest in families with no firearms at home, among gun-owning families, youths living in homes in which all firearms are stored unloaded and locked are at lower risk for suicide than those living in homes in which firearms are stored less securely (Grossman 2005).

Read the Consensus Statement on Youth Suicide by Firearms, developed by a multi-disciplinary consortium of experts in 1996. (summary)  (full document)


Baxley F, Miller M. Parental misperceptions about children and firearms. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2006;160(5):542-7.

Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, et al. Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. JAMA. 2005;293(6):707-14.

More studies on youth access

More studies on safe storage