Guns don't "drive" suicides for anyone, much less black Americans

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I don’t think anyone will argue suicide isn’t a problem. It’s a big one and will remain so for as long as people take their own life.

This is something that pretty much everyone can get behind to some degree.

However, a lot of us are downright sick of guns being blamed for suicides. It’s especially infuriating when someone like Kaiser Health News actually suggests ownership “drives” suicides by titling a piece: “More Black Americans Are Buying Guns. Is It Driving Up Black Suicide Rates?

Gun buying among African Americans has soared in recent years. At the same time, suicide rates have increased among young Black men. Experts believe the trends may be linked, because having a gun in the home increases suicide risk exponentially, for every person who lives there.

But even gun enthusiasts say that the newest generation of gun owners sometimes lack the training and information they need to keep themselves safe around firearms. Homicides in Missouri reached a record high in 2020, spurring even more people to buy guns. But the number of suicides in the state was even higher, and the suicide rate has been on the rise for a decade.

Suicide is usually an impulsive act. One study found that nearly half of survivors reported that the time between first considering suicide and making an attempt was 10 minutes or fewer. If people in crisis can be kept away from a means of killing themselves for even a short period, their risk of dying can drop dramatically.

I don’t have a problem with discussing suicide. KHN actually does a good job in the body of the piece to highlight people in the gun rights movement who are trying to curb suicides through their efforts. It’s a damn good idea.

But the premise here is faulty. First, saying “nearly half” of survivors tried to commit suicide within 10 minutes of deciding to do so isn’t a case of “usually.”

Further, here are the full results from the abstract on the linked study:

Nearly half of the patients (47.6%; N = 39) reported that the period between the first current thought of suicide and the actual attempt had lasted 10 minutes or less. Those patients in which this process had taken longer showed a higher suicidal intent (p < .001). Impulsivity was not associated with the duration of the suicidal process. Although the majority of the patients were alone during the suicidal process, 76.8% (N = 63) reported having had any kind of interpersonal contact.

In other words, it’s not necessarily an impulsive act. It is sometimes, but not universally.

Suicide is a complex act, but even when it is impulsive, it doesn’t come out of the blue. There are signs. People are depressed or suffering in some manner.

And honestly, that title? Are they trying to imply black gun owners have no volition of their own, that just having a gun means they’re incapable of resisting its siren song telling them to kill themselves? It’s kind of insane.

Suicide is a problem. It’s one the gun community needs to discuss and work to find solutions. We need to support one another who may be having issues. And we need to know the government is going to stay out of it, otherwise, gun owners will clam up and say nothing, which isn’t a good thing at all.

But for anyone to think guns themselves drive anything is downright ridiculous.