The bad news is that suicides overall are up, the good news is that gun suicides as a percentage of all suicides is down. Well, kinda down. Fifteen years ago, the CDC counted 29,199 suicides of all types across America; the per-100K rate was 10.48. In 2014, the overall number was 42,773; the rate had climbed 23 percent to 12.93. Ouch! That’s not good. Gun suicides, on the other hand, claimed 16,599 lives in 1999 for a 100-K rate of 5.96; in 2014 gun suicides were 21,334 resulting in a 100-K rate of 6.34. So the gun suicide rate only increased by 6 percent. I guess Gun Nation is doing something right, right?
Actually, wrong. Want the latest and greatest from Gun Nation about suicide and guns? Take a look at the new, online safety program developed by the NSSF. It’s a glossy website that gives a roadmap for ‘responsible’ gun ownership based on safe storage, training, communication and all the other things that you should do to be a ‘responsible gun owner.’ The website includes a nice list of safe storage options ‘to fit your lifestyle and home circumstances,’ ranging from a trigger lock to a full-size gun safe, all of which should be used to ‘prevent accidents.’
But what if you don’t want to lock the gun away because you might need to use it to shoot a You-Know-Who breaking down the front door? After all, isn’t concealed or open carry also a lifestyle? You betcha, considering that for the last twenty years the gun industry and its media sycophants have been promoting how much safer you’ll be if you own a gun.
But will you be safer? To my utter astonishment, the NSSF’s safety brochure actually contains a statement about gun risk which is true: “Keeping a firearm to defend your family makes no sense if that same firearm puts family members or visitors to your home at risk.” What kind of risk? The risk that is never mentioned by the NSSF or anyone else who promotes gun ownership, namely, risk that someone might end their own life with a gun. The NSSF gets about as close to this untouchable issue as they can by noting that gun safety is particularly necessary if “loved ones experience a difficult time.” Well, at least Gun Nation has found a pleasant euphemism for depression; i.e., a ‘difficult time.’
But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide. This relationship held for both genders and all age groups. It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.
Why is Gun Nation so reluctant to mention the word suicide when they talk about gun safety? Because it’s an unbroken rule among the gun-nut fraternity/sorority that the only people whose lives are lost from the misuse of guns are law-abiding citizens who didn’t use a gun to defend themselves against the You-Know-Who’s. Think I’m overstating things? Just listen to Wayne-o or home-school queen Dana Loesch repeat this nonsense in the videos they produce for the NRA.
Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence? Think again. Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.
Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim. As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’