Skip to content

Waiting Periods

Solutions

Waiting Periods

What does it solve?

A waiting period law requires a certain number of days to pass between the purchase of a gun and when the buyer can actually take possession of that gun. This creates a buffer between someone having a suicidal crisis and access to a gun.

Creating a buffer between someone having a suicidal crisis and access to a gun can be the difference between life and death. Waiting period laws require gun buyers to wait until a certain period of time has passed before they are able to access a gun they have purchased.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line for free from anywhere in the U.S.

Myth & Fact

Myth

Suicide is inevitable.

Fact

Suicide is preventable. In fact, the vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun. Across all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, 4% will result in death. But for gun suicides, those statistics are flipped: about 90% of gun suicide attempts end in death.

How it works

When someone is considering suicide, days matter—and waiting periods can save lives.

Guns are by far the most lethal method of commonly-used methods of self-harm, with a fatality rate of about 90%. By contrast, less than 4% of people who attempt suicide using other methods will die, and the vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Although guns are used in less than 6% of suicide attempts, more than half of suicide deaths are by gun. Research suggests that reduced suicide attempts by gun would result in an overall decline in the suicide rate by an estimated 20 to 38%. And in a study of statewide suicide rate changes between 2013 and 2014, states with waiting periods saw a decrease in suicide rates, while those without waiting period laws had an increase.

While it is imperative that lawmakers close the “Charleston Loophole,” which would require some gun buyers to wait for several days until their background check is completed before they can complete their purchase, that policy only affects gun buyers whose records require further investigation to determine if they are prohibited. By contrast, a waiting period applies to all gun buyers—providing a “cooling off” period for the people who might reconsider their intentions in the interim.

You might be wondering…

  1. 1 How long are the waiting periods in the states that have these laws?
  2. 2 Do waiting periods accomplish the same things as closing the Charleston loophole?