People kill themselves. With guns

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.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to People kill themselves. With guns

  1. rndyduran says:

    Well I get your point. But what exactly are you trying to get at? Do you want to abolish guns because they make America a bit more dangerous. If that is the case, why not get rid of cars? 40,000 Americans are killed in car accidents each year. 100,000 Americans are killed by prescription drugs each year as well. So yes, like cars and prescription drugs, guns are dangerous, but they are a necessity. Interesting you do not have a chart on how many times guns are used as a source of protection, which is 100,000 per year.

  2. rndyduran says:

    Ok, so say that statistic is bogus. What you do not seem to understand is that more regulations will not stop criminals. Name one piece of regulation that could have stopped Sandy Hook. After Sandy Hook we saw a number of shootings in the media. Now what the liberal media failed to mention was the fact that a number of those shootings were stopped buy armed civilians. Regulations just make it harder for those who live by the laws of the land harder to obtain weapons to defend their selves. Take Chicago for example, they have some of the strictest gun laws. yet they 2,364 shootings. Why? Because criminals do not care about the laws and one way or the other, they will find a way to obtain a weapon while those who obey the laws sit around waiting for the government to give them permission to own a weapon.

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