The epidemic of white male suicide

People are more likely to kill themselves with their own gun than someone else with a gun. (Image from the Boston Globe)

White men are killing themselves more than any other race.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of all suicides are firearm-related and 80 percent of firearm-related suicides are by white males. These men are older, uneducated and from an impoverished socioeconomic background.

“Roughly 4 in 10 gun owners (38 percent) say there is a gun that is both loaded and easily accessible to them all of the time when they’re at home. Men are especially likely to have a loaded gun at the ready,” wrote Kim Parker, director of social trends and research at the Pew Research Center, in a study.

Men are more likely to participate in gun oriented activities, according to researchers a the Pew Research Center.

According to sociologists, the general populace remains focused on the tragedies of gun violence related to school shootings, gang violence and homicides, but unknowingly ignore the biggest offender of firearm related deaths: suicides.

“Low levels of household income ($20,000 or less) are associated with lifetime mental disorders and suicide attempts,” the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, Canada, reported in a 2011 population-based longitudinal study on the relationship between household income and mental disorders. “The recent global economic recession has promoted increasing concern about the impact of decreasing income as a risk factor for mental disorders and suicidal behavior.”

Parker wrote, “Americans see many factors as playing a role in gun violence in the country today. Eighty-six percent say the ease with which people can illegally obtain guns contributes to gun violence a great deal or a fair amount; more than half say the same about family instability (74 percent), lack of economic opportunities (65 percent).”

The less a person makes, the more likely they are to kill themselves, especially white males. According to sociologists, the reason white men are killing themselves is not because of guns but the white-oppression complex.

 Mitch Berbrier, a sociologist and professor of sociology at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, worked to explain white-male discontent in a 2014 article in the journal, Society for the Study of Social Problems. “(It’s) the feeling that if whites express pride in their heritage, they are branded as racists and bigots,”

Tim Wise, an anti-racist activist and writer who has spoken at more than 600 universities across the country since the mid-1990s said, “When you’ve had the luxury of presuming yourself to be the norm, the prototype of an American, any change in the demographic and cultural realities in your society will strike you as outsized attacks on your status.”

A description of gun ownership by age, race, education and location according to researchers at the Pew Research Center.

“On top of that, 3 percent of the population owns half of the guns in our country and a majority of that 3 percent are white men,” Wise said. “The fetishization of firearms is specific to white males and appears to be a way for them to assert their masculinity, and when that doesn’t help, they turn them on themselves.”

Max Samis, press secretary for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said his organization is trying to cut gun deaths in half by 2025.

“The reason people own guns varies, but it’s mainly for protection,” Samis said. “These people fear something and feel the need to have guns. The reality is, most people use firearms on themselves instead of an intruder.”

According to sociologists, white uneducated men of impoverished socioeconomic backgrounds want to protect their homes and families even if they have to by force. Their fear of losing their masculinity and having their racist image of the “prototype of American” challenged leads them to despair.

“The gun becomes their sacred object,” Wise wrote on Twitter. “Gun control for these owners has come to represent an attack on their masculinity, independence and moral identity.”

Chris Blach and Jordan Treece are reporters for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at and

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