Op-ed tries to link campus carry to suicides

Elaine Thompson

Not everyone is going to be cool with something like campus carry. We already know this. After all, some people still aren’t comfortable with concealed carry despite decades of data showing that it isn’t an issue and likely helps reduce crime.

So when the subject of carrying a firearm on campus comes up, I get some people aren’t going to be comfortable. People have a right to not just be uncomfortable but to also express that discomfort.

What they don’t have a right to, though, is distort the facts beyond all reality without any kind of challenge, which is what one op-ed tried to do while seeking to address Missouri’s proposed campus carry law.

On Dec. 1, 2021, Missouri state Rep. Chuck Basye, a Republican from District 47, introduced HB 1751, which would allow college students to bring firearms onto university campuses, if passed. This bill has significant implications for the mental health and suicide rates of college students by increasing access to firearms in an already vulnerable population.

As a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I am well aware of the unique stressors of being on a college campus. I recently completed my adult psychiatry residency training and am currently a first-year child and adolescent psychiatry fellow. I have seen firsthand the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on college students’ mental health. I have also published research on the impacts of Missouri’s firearm laws on youth and young adult suicide, and I worry that introducing firearms on college campuses in the state would worsen the risk of completed suicide in this population.

Firearm suicide rates in college-age Missourians are already at an all-time high. Missouri experienced a 71% increase in suicides in 10- to 24-year-olds from 2007 to 2018. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shows rates of firearm suicides in 18- to 22-year-old Missourians have tripled recently, going from 5.6 in 2013 to 15.9 per 100,000 of these young people in 2020.

First, there’s no evidence that campus carry laws have any impact on suicide rates, and why would they? Even if we accept that firearm ownership somehow increased suicide rates, this bill doesn’t impact ownership. It’s a campus carry bill, not a bill that impacts gun purchasing.

In fact, this entire argument is about suicides in Missouri.

Yet, campus carry is the law in 11 other states right now. We’re not seeing some epidemic of suicides among the students of these states, particularly while on campus. If campus carry were to impact the suicide rate to any appreciable degree, it would have to impact spur-of-the-moment decisions to take one’s life while lawfully carrying on campus.

That’s simply not happening.

See, the author of this piece is conflating one area of concern with another bill in hopes that the people of Missouri will be too stupid to realize that the issue he’s griping about has nothing to do with the bill in question.

Of course, that would mean looking at reality and accepting it as it is, rather than trying to manipulate the facts to make your political point when that pesky reality won’t do it for you.