Why Suicides Shouldn't Sway Gun Debate

Why Suicides Shouldn't Sway Gun Debate

Anti-gunners claim that guns claim tens of thousands of lives every year. However, most of us know by now that their numbers are mostly made up of suicides. Two-thirds of the lives supposedly taken by guns are people who take their own lives, not the life of another.


Yet there is still a push by anti-gunners to use suicide as grounds to increase gun control.

For example:

In 2014, guns were the cause of about half of the 42,773 suicides in America. This statistic is even higher among current and former service members, as two-thirds of suicides among this population are committed using firearms.

First, no. Guns were not the cause of anything. They were the implement used by those who decided to take their own lives due to depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

No healthy, well-adjusted individual wakes up one day and shoots themselves in the head because they have a gun.

A firearm is a tool. It does what it’s made to do. It has no volition of its own. It can’t cause anything.

Now, back to the nonsense.

Sadly, research shows that suicide rates have increased over the past 45 years among people 10-24 years old, with one of the most common methods used being firearms. This is important to consider, as there are approximately 270 million to 310 million guns — both legally and illegally owned — in the United States currently. An estimated 4.6 million of these guns are kept in non-secure locations in households with children.

When using firearms, 90 percent of suicide attempts are successful, compared to only a 3 percent success rate using other methods, such as drugs/poison or cutting. This is a stark difference, explained, perhaps, because those who use less violent means have a chance to reconsider their decision or receive successful medical treatment for injuries sustained.


This is, sadly, true. Firearms are an incredibly successful method of suicide. That’s why they’re used so often by those wishing to take their own life. Yet all this is laid out for one simple fact.

It seems that gun control is just for your own good.

If access to guns were restricted through tighter gun safety laws, then American suicide rates would likely decrease. For example, in 1996 there was a mass shooting in Port Arthur, Australia. After that terrible event, lawmakers outlawed the ownership of specific types of guns. The government also offered money in exchange for turning in illegal guns, reducing the number of firearms owned by approximately 20 percent. A study on various outcomes of this program found a significant reduction of nearly 80 percent in suicides by gun in Australia following the passing of this law. A similar reduction in suicide occurred in Switzerland, when a 2003 law halved the number of armed citizens and markedly reduced the prevalence of guns in civilian households. Even states within in the U.S. that have stricter gun laws such as pre-purchase background checks, mandatory waiting periods, and enforceable storage requirements have lower rates of gun-related suicide (not to mention lower rates of homicide, too).

However, even if you take all the suicides and homicides committed with firearms each year and compare them to the number of people the CDC estimates use a firearm to save their own life every year, you would find that millions more people protect their lives with a gun than take a life with one.


Further, let’s also remember that suicide is a conscious choice someone makes. Whether the tool is effective or not is irrelevant to the discussion. The only way to prevent people from committing suicide with a firearm would be to keep anyone from having a gun. The argument that it’s for your own good, however, is one that’s unlikely to sway many Americans.

Look, if you want to combat suicides, great. I’m right there with you.

But it makes infinitely more sense to do it by improving the mental health system as well as removing any cultural stigmas to getting that help than by taking away a single item people use to take their own life, especially when so many times more people use that same tool to save their lives.

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