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Donna's Law: The Voluntary Do-Not-Sell List Will Save Lives


● There were 26,328 firearm suicide deaths in the United States in 2021.[1]


● Buying a gun is associated with an increased risk of suicide. One study found that the suicide rate among recent gun purchasers was 57 times the overall rate,[2] which translates into hundreds of suicides each year.


● Many suicide attempts are impulsive. One study of survivors of firearm suicide attempts found that a majority had suicidal thoughts for less than a day.[3]


● With firearms, there are very few second chances. About 85% of gun suicide attempts result in death.  In contrast, only about 5% of suicide attempts with pills end in death.[4]


● Research shows that delaying access to firearms significantly reduces gun suicide, without increasing non-gun suicide.[5]  Some people who would have attempted suicide with a gun make no attempt at all and some people switch to a less lethal method.


● Surviving one suicide attempt usually makes all the difference. The vast majority of suicide attempt survivors go on to die of something other than suicide. Only around 10% of serious suicide attempt survivors eventually die by suicide.[6]  Most people take advantage of their second chance, which they will rarely get if they use a gun.


● Unfortunately, it is too early to directly measure the effects of the Voluntary Do-Not-Sell Lists that have been enacted only recently in three states (Washington, Virginia, and Utah).  However, the indirect evidence is strong:

• People are successfully requesting to be added to the Lists in all three states.

• Many more people want to sign up.  In one study, 46% of people receiving psychiatric care said they would sign up.[7]  About 30% of a large, nationally representative sample said they would sign up.[8]

• Details vary from state to state, but being on the List temporarily suspends one’s ability to quickly purchase a firearm.  For those who chose voluntarily to participate, it is reasonable to expect a reduction in overall suicide risk as great as the reduction that has been observed with similarfirearm purchase delays (see above).[5]



1. (U.S.).

2. Wintemute GJ, Parham CA, Beaumont JJ, Wright M, Drake C. Mortality among recent purchasers of handguns. N Engl J Med. 1999;341(21):1583-1589.

3. Peterson LG, Peterson M, O’Shanick GJ, Swann A. Self-inflicted gunshot wounds: lethality of method versus intent. Am J Psychiatry. 1985;142(2):228-231.

4. Miller M, Azrael D, Barber C. Suicide mortality in the United States: the importance of attending to method in understanding population-level disparities in the burden of suicide. Ann Rev Pub Health. 2012;33:393-408;

5. Griffin Edwards, Eric Nesson, Josh Robinson, & Fredrick Vars, The Effect of Mandatory Handgun Purchase Delays on Homicide and Suicide, 128 Econ. J. 3117 (2017).

6. Owens D, Horrocks J, House A. Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. Brit J Psychiatry. 2002;181:193-199.

7. Fredrick Vars, Karen Cropsey, Cheryl McCullumsmith, & Richard Shelton, Willingness of Mentally Ill Individuals To Sign Up for a Novel Proposal To Prevent Firearm Suicide, Suicide & Life-Threat. Behav. (2016).

8. Ian Ayres & Fredrick Vars, Weapon of Choice: Fighting Gun Violence While Respecting Gun Rights (Harv. Univ. Press, 2020).

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