For Release: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Nine out of 10 murder-suicides involve a gun, 72 percent involve an intimate partner
Washington, DC — More than 1,200 people died in murder-suicides in America in 2014 and 93 percent of the killers used a gun, according to a comprehensive new study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The study, released to mark the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, found that 72 percent of murder-suicides were committed by an intimate partner. The majority of the victims of murder-suicides were women, and the vast majority of the killers were men.
This is the fifth 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, 2014 to June 30, 2014. To the VPC’s knowledge, it is the largest and most comprehensive analysis available on murder-suicide in the United States.
The study found there were 282 murder-suicide events during this six-month period, or nearly 11 murder-suicides per week. These incidents resulted in 617 deaths, of which 285 were suicides and 332 were homicides. Doubling the total number of fatalities results in a yearly estimate of 1,234 murder-suicide deaths for 2014.
“Suicide is commonly misperceived as a single, desperate act. Yet murder-suicides claim the lives of spouses, intimate partners, and children — and almost always involve a gun. The findings in our study make it clear that murder-suicide is a domestic violence issue,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.
The findings in American Roulette include:
• Of the 282 murder-suicides in the first half of 2014, 261 (93 percent) were known to involve a firearm.
• Seventy-two percent of the murder-suicides involved an intimate partner. Of these, 93 percent were females killed by their intimate partners. Among the incidents where females were killed by intimate partners, 94 percent involved a gun.
• Eighty-one percent of the murder-suicides occurred in the home.
• Most of the killers in murder-suicides were men. Of the 285 suicides, 254 (89 percent) were male, 30 (11 percent) were female, and one was of unidentified gender.
• Most of the murder-suicide victims were women. Of the 332 homicide victims, 252 (76 percent) were female, 79 (24 percent) were male, and one was of unidentified gender.
• Forty-five of the homicide victims were children and teens less than 18 years of age.
• Of the murder-suicides involving a male murderer and three or more victims, 46 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:
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.