Gunshot suicides in England

A multicentre study based on coroners’ records
  • Lesley Sutton
  • Keith Hawton
  • Sue Simkin
  • Pauline Turnbull
  • Navneet Kapur
  • Olive Bennewith
  • David Gunnell



Gunshot suicides account for 2.5% of suicides in England and Wales. This amounts to more than 100 deaths per year. Information about such deaths may assist in the development of suicide prevention strategies.


We have examined coroners’ inquest records for all gunshot suicides between 1st January 2000 and 31st December 2001 in 24 coroners’ jurisdictions in England.


Fifty-eight gunshot suicides were identified, including one homicide-suicide. Ninety-three per cent of cases were male. Sport or occupational usage was the main reason for owning the gun. Ten per cent were farmers or farm-workers. In 20% of cases the gun did not belong to the individual who used it for suicide. This was more likely in younger suicides. Seven (12.1 %) individuals used illegally owned handguns. Large amounts of alcohol had been consumed before the act in nine cases. Nearly three-quarters (72.9%) of individuals with diagnostic information had a probable diagnosis of depression. However, only 22.4% had ever had contact with psychiatric services. Two shotgun certificate holders were under the care of psychiatric services at the time of their death and two others had a history of previous self-harm.


Strategies to reduce the number of gunshot suicides need to focus on limiting access to guns. These include restricting access to guns by non-certificate holders and those who may be at increased risk of suicide, and holding regular gun amnesties.

Key words

suicide gunshot firearms prevention coroners’ records 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lesley Sutton
    • 1
  • Keith Hawton
    • 1
  • Sue Simkin
    • 1
  • Pauline Turnbull
    • 2
  • Navneet Kapur
    • 2
  • Olive Bennewith
    • 3
  • David Gunnell
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Suicide Research, Dept. of PsychiatryUniversity of Oxford Warneford HospitalHeadington, Oxford OX3 7JXUK
  2. 2.Centre for Suicide PreventionUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.Dept. of Social MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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