Eleven Murder-Suicides Occur Across America Each Week, Claiming More Than 1,300 Lives Annually, New VPC Study Finds

For Release: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Nine out of 10 murder-suicides involve a gun, 65 percent involve an intimate partner

Lack of National Data Collection Leaves Full Scope of Murder-Suicide Unknown

Washington, DC — More than 1,300 people died in murder-suicides in America in 2017 and 91 percent of the killers used a gun, according to a comprehensive new study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).

This is the sixth edition of the VPC’s American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States. The study analyzes news reports of murder-suicides for the six-month period January 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017. Recognizing that there is no comprehensive national data collection system that measures murder-suicide, the VPC report is the largest and most comprehensive analysis available on murder-suicide in the United States.

The study found there were 296 murder-suicide events during this six-month period, or more than 11 murder-suicides per week. These incidents resulted in 663 deaths, of which 296 were suicides and 367 were homicides. During this period, murder-suicides occurred in all but six states and the District of Columbia. Doubling the total number of fatalities results in a yearly estimate of 1,326 murder-suicide deaths for 2017.

“Murder-suicides occur daily across our nation, claiming the lives of spouses, intimate partners, children, and co-workers. The disturbing findings in our study make clear the need for a comprehensive national data collection system that measures the full extent of murder-suicide in our country,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.

The findings in American Roulette include:

  • Of the 296 murder-suicides in the first half of 2017, 270 (91 percent) were known to involve a firearm.
  • Sixty-five percent of the murder-suicides involved an intimate partner. Of these, 96 percent were females killed by their intimate partners. Among the incidents where females were killed by intimate partners, 94 percent involved a gun.
  • Most of the killers in murder-suicides were men. Of the 296 suicides, 263 (89 percent) were male, 19 (6 percent) were female, and 14 were not unidentified by gender.
  • Most of the murder-suicide victims were women. Of the 367 homicide victims, 253 (69 percent) were female, 99 (27 percent) were male, and 15 were not identified by gender.
  • Forty-two of the homicide victims were children and teens less than 18 years of age.
  • Eighty-two percent of the murder-suicides occurred in the home.
  • Of the murder-suicides involving a male murderer and three or more victims, 55 percent were perpetrated by family annihilators — murderers who kill their intimate partners and their children before killing themselves.

To help reduce the tragic toll of murder-suicides in the United States, the study’s recommendations include:

  • Stronger domestic violence prevention legislation and the establishment of state domestic violence task forces.
  • Restricting access to firearms where there is an increased risk of a murder-suicide; for example, where an individual has a history of domestic violence and/or has threatened suicide.
  • Aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
  • Establishing a comprehensive, nationwide database to track murder-suicides.

No comprehensive national database or tracking system exists on murder-suicides in the United States. As a result, the VPC study necessarily relies on news reports for its analysis. The study’s estimate for the total number of murder-suicides per year is consistent with the standard range of estimates in medical studies.

To view the complete text of American Roulette, including examples of murder-suicides that have occurred across the country, visit: http://vpc.org/studies/amroul2018.pdf.

For past editions of American Roulette, please visit: http://vpc.org/revealing-the-impacts-of-gun-violence/murder-suicide/.



The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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