People kill themselves. With guns
February 15, 2013 4 Comments
One of the interesting things about gun ownership is that simply having a gun around seems to make a person significantly more likely to successfully commit suicide. Here’s a nice chart from a Congressional Quarterly Researcher piece on gun policies:
Anyway, the NYT had a nice article on this yesterday:
The gun debate has focused on mass shootings and assault weapons since the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., but far more Americans die by turning guns on themselves. Nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in the United States in 2010 were suicides, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national suicide rate has climbed by 12 percent since 2003, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teenagers.
Guns are particularly lethal. Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
The national map of suicide lights up in states with the highest gun ownership rates. Wyoming, Montana and Alaska, the states with the three highest suicide rates, are also the top gun-owning states, according to the Harvard center. The state-level data are too broad to tell whether the deaths were in homes with guns, but a series of individual-level studies since the early 1990s found a direct link. Most researchers say the weight of evidence from multiple studies is that guns in the home increase the risk of suicide. [emphasis mine]
Interesting that there seems to just be something to killing yourself with a gun, but that’s what the data clearly suggest. I also love the “maybe it’s not really guns” response:
Still, some dispute the link, saying that it does not prove cause and effect, and that other factors, like alcoholism and drug abuse, may be driving the association. Gary Kleck, a professor of criminology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, contends that gun owners may have qualities that make them more susceptible to suicide. They may be more likely to see the world as a hostile place, or to blame themselves when things go wrong, a dark side of self-reliance.
Short version– gun owners are more likely to be mentally and emotionally unstable. Great!! Not sure that’s the argument I’d want to make.