Roughly two-thirds of all lives taken with guns each year are people who use one to take their own lives. Suicide represents the lion’s share of so-called gun fatalities.
Suicide is a problem. It’s a big one. People taking their own lives is something we should never dismiss out of hand. While I tend to think people have a right to do so, I also don’t think people should do so. It’s something we as a society should work toward preventing.
Yet for many, the issue is simply nothing more than another excuse to push gun control.
Public health experts and some law enforcement officials who’ve studied gun violence agree that suicide is a big deal when it comes to gun violence. In fact, most gun deaths for children and adults in the U.S. don’t involve criminals or bad guys with guns. They involve people harming themselves.
“Access to lethal means, specifically guns, is one of the most important health factors we could address when preventing suicides,” said Paul Nestadt, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins who researches suicide with the School of Public Health. He spoke with NCPR in 2018.
Nestadt says for communities like the rural North Country, suicide should be a top issue when talking about how to make guns safer.
“The demographic populations that have more access to firearm simply have more likelihood of dying by firearm. Since it tends to be more rural, more white, definitely more male, somewhat older who have more firearms, they also have the higher suicide rate by firearms.”
Here’s the problem, though. If mere access to guns is an issue, then the only way to curb suicides is to remove the guns. Yet what we’ve seen is that states with red flag laws–a measure that removes guns from people who may be a danger to themselves or others but includes no other forms of intervention–is that suicides increased.
Many of us on the gun rights side of things reject the so-called public health “experts” who argue that gun control is somehow the answer for the simple reason that taking the gun doesn’t end the threat.
Of course, the “experts” have a response to that.
Again, researchers disagree. They say the data is clear that those kinds of suicide methods are far less likely to end in death when compared with suicide attempts by firearm.
If that’s the case, then why do states that pass red flag laws see an increase in suicides? Either red flag laws don’t work worth a damn, other methods of suicide are still pretty effective, or some combination of the two.
In fairness, the raw stat is probably correct. It just doesn’t tell the whole story. However, they’re still missing the overall point. Just because pills or hanging is less effective than a gun for taking one’s life doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Plenty of people die every year to precisely these kinds of methods.
Yet treating suicide as a gun issue relegates these same people to their fate as if they simply don’t matter. The “experts” pretend that those deaths simply don’t count. Why? Because there’s no political advantage to it.
If you’re serious about combatting suicide, attack it from a mental health standpoint. Reduce suicides from all causes and save real lives. Every death matters. Stop pretending like you don’t care if they don’t shoot themselves.