Our friends at The Trace have just published an article on guns and suicides which shows that states with high per-capita gun ownership also tend to have higher-than-average suicides committed with guns. Roughly one out of two successful suicides involve a gun, and it is the only type of suicide plan that rarely, if ever, fails. So having access to a gun when something as impulsive as suicide is involved, becomes a very dangerous state of affairs.
The idea of a link between gun ownership and suicide is not new. In fact, two of the true gun-violence research pioneers, Art Kellerman and Frederick Rivara, published research on this point in 1992, for which the NRA did not give them an award at their annual meeting that year or any other year. In fact, it was this research among other efforts that was cited by the NRA as ‘proof’ that CDC-funded gun research was nothing more than anti-gun advocacy masquerading as science and led to the defunding of said research.
I happen to think that perhaps we should start taking the NRA and its various mouthpieces at their word and suggest that perhaps the medical community should forego any further treatment of NRA members altogether. I mean, what the hell. Since they have decided that getting your head shot off isn’t a medical ‘problem,’ obviously no other injury that a person might suffer should qualify as a medical problem either, right?
Now obviously I’m being a bit sarcastic here to make a point, which is that gun violence is gun violence whether you point the gun at yourself or at anyone else. The difference, and it’s the only difference, is that it’s a lot easier to shoot yourself than to shoot anyone else, particularly if the ‘anyone else’ happens to be moving around. And the fact that the official line from Gun-nut Nation is that suicide and guns have nothing whatsoever to do with each other only tells you how far from reality that bunch has strayed. So let’s get back to reality.
Here’s reality: In 2014, the national gun-suicide rate (per 100,000) was 6.34. The rate for Whites was 8.3, for Blacks it was 2.75. Where do all these White suicide victims live? In small towns particularly in Western states. This is what the Kerry Shaw says in The Trace, this is what everyone says. And while a state like Montana has a gun-suicide rate seven times higher than New York State, comparing suicide rates at the state level can sometimes obscure as much as it explains. For example, Essex County, which is the far Northern chunk of the Adirondacks, has a gun-suicide rate of more than 10, which isn’t up to Montana but it’s not far behind. The difference is that New York’s statewide population is overwhelmingly urban and suicides, particularly older suicides, tend to take place in small, rural towns, no matter where they are located.
It should also be mentioned that as the suicide-prone population ages, the use of a gun becomes more frequent. The rate of gun-suicide for White victims above the age of 60 is 13.36, which is 60% higher than the rate for all White suicide deaths. On the other hand, the gun-suicide rate for Blacks who are 60 and up is the same as the overall gun-suicide rate for African-Americans. Why is it that Blacks seem so resistant to suicide, in particular gun-suicide, whereas suicide and gun-suicide rates for Whites are three times higher and keep going up? We have absolutely no idea, and it’s an issue which never seems to get discussed within the GVP community.
It should be discussed because it certainly wouldn’t hurt to figure out why gun violence seems to be endemic to certain population groups whereas other groups appear to be resistant to the gun-violence scourge. After all, it’s not as if there is anyone in this great land of ours who can’t easily and readily put their hands on a gun.