Man holds handgun
A man holds a handgun at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston in 2022. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

Nearly three-quarters of firearm-related deaths in San Diego County over the period 2017-21 were suicides while the remainder were primarily homicides, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Gun Violence Community Needs Assessment Final Report found that suicides accounted for 71% of the firearm deaths, followed by homicides at 29%. Only 0.1% of firearm-related deaths were accidental.

The firearm-related homicide rate was highest among residents aged 25 to 44, while the suicide rate was highest for those 65 and older.

The report offered prevention and intervention strategies tailored to specific populations at highest risk for violence. Among the proposals are developing and sharing suicide-prevention materials and working to change norms about gun violence through outreach programs.

The report also advises partnering with agencies that offer free gun locks.

Enhancing community prevention services also is recommended in the report, including expanding youth-focused programs, such as mentorship and supervised after-school activities. The study also calls for partnership building between trauma hospitals and community-based organizations that connect gun violence patients and their families to recovery services.

“Although suicide and assault by firearm are significant challenges, there remains substantial public interest, across various communities, in resolving these issues, and multiple opportunities exist for the County to be both a leader and partner in the reduction of gun violence,” the report concluded.

The county is developing a strategy using the recommendations to advance gun violence-reduction programs. The report and work plan are scheduled to be presented to the Board of Supervisors on July 18.

The county contracted with Health Assessment and Research for Communities, a Riverside County-based nonprofit research and evaluation organization, to conduct the assessment, which includes findings from more than 18 months of work with community and government leaders, according to county officials.

City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.