A New Partnership To Reduce Gun Suicides Which Might Help.

How many people die annually from gun violence?  If you’re a gun-control advocate, you’ll usually say that it’s somewhere around 31,000.  On the other hand, if you’re pro-gun, you’ll say it’s 11,000, give or take a few. The difference is whether or not suicide is considered a type of gun violence, because every year more than 20,000 Americans end their own lives by using a gun.  And if you want to meet your Maker before He wants to meet you, there’s nothing as efficient as pulling out the ol’ firearm, aiming it at yourself and – bam! Gun suicide is effective 90% of the time, no other life-ending behavior is half as good.

gun-suicide            According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence is defined as someone who attempts to injure themselves or someone else.  So from a medical point of view, gun suicide is certainly a type of gun violence.  But the disagreement between pro-gun and anti-gun forces isn’t about medicine, it’s about politics, messaging and whether we need guns around or not.  Which is why until recently, the gun industry has preferred to keep discussions about gun suicide on the back burner, but that’s about to change.

Last year the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the industry’s lobbying and trade organization began talking to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in an effort to find some common ground.  And what has emerged from these talks is a four-state, pilot program that will put suicide prevention messaging in gun shops and shooting ranges, a program that will then be widened with the goal of reducing gun suicides 20% nationally by 2025.  The project was officially kicked off with a press conference at this week’s SHOT show, and is publicly displayed on the websites of the AFSP and NSSF.

Predictably, the fringe elements in Gun-nut World were reluctant to jump on board unless this initiative and other similar programs would steer clear of any explicit or implicit attempt to use this activity to regulate guns.  Alan Gottleib, whose 2nd Amendment Foundation is really a cover for his very-profitable mail solicitation business, helped craft a bill before the Washington State legislature that establishes a ‘safe homes’ task force that will create messaging and training materials for ‘voluntary’ use by gun dealers. The Task Force membership includes Gottleib and a rep from the NRA. I don’t notice any representation from the groups in Washington State that pushed through an extension of background checks over the vigorous opposition of the NRA and the Gottleib gang.

This is the problem with the new suicide initiative announced by the NSSF and the AFSP, namely, that it’s a voluntary effort, which when it comes to educating about gun violence is where the gun industry always draws the line.  Gun-nut Nation’s phobia about government mandates is about as extreme as the phobia that some people have about immunizing their kids against disease.  And frankly, both phobias come from the same place; i.e., mistrust of government and a total misrepresentation of the facts. Fact: There is absolutely no connection between NICS-background checks and national registration of guns.  Fact: There is absolutely no connection between immunizations and autism, despite what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says.

If you walk into a gun shop today, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see a ‘Don’t Lie For The Other Guy’ poster on the wall.  This is a long-standing partnership between the ATF and the NSSF to discourage straw sales at the counter-top, a project that is dear to the hearts of everyone in the GVP community as well.  In fact, displaying this message is mandatory, although ATF agents don’t check to see if the poster is hanging on the wall or not.

Of course we would like gun-suicide prevention programs to have some teeth. Of course we would like Gun-nut Nation to stop opposing sensible laws that would enable family members of at-risk individuals to remove their guns.  Of course, of course, of course.  But the NSSF-AFSP partnership is a good start.

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7 thoughts on “A New Partnership To Reduce Gun Suicides Which Might Help.

  1. Thomas, there is some info here:
    http://www.nssfblog.com/nssf-afsp-suicide-prevention-partnership/

    I have a friend who tried to snuff him/herself out a few decades ago as a youth and is therefore a 4473 prohibited person (I think question 11) although since that fortunately failed episode (not involving a firearm, since if he/she had used one, probably would have been successful) she/he is on the NICS list due to the involuntary hospitalization. Now trying to figure out how to get relief from prohibited person status and no longer worries about suicide. Another friend had an uncle who was a cop and told stories about failed attempts where a person had to learn to live with such things as missing pieces of their face.

    So all of this is a good idea. The sticking points, which are solvable, are what due processes to build into a law allowing a gun violence restraining order (or similar court order involving involuntary firearm removal) brought by a family member instead of a licensed medical professional. I think those are solvable although if you listened to the extreme voices, you would throw up your hands in futility. I guess some on the right would really prefer prying guns “from my cold, dead hands” even if self inflicted. Likewise, I don’t agree with all the stuff the other side proffers either. What is lacking, as Mike states, is trust across the gun policy moat.

    • Khal, many thanks for the link. I agree those are legitimate questions regarding due process in relation to some of the new laws pertaining to gun removal. On the question of the two seemingly irreconcilable solitudes, let’s never give up. When I speak to communities–I spoke to a men’s and women’s club this week–I find there are many reasonable people who do not fall on either extreme. They are genuinely shocked by some of the injury and other data and appalled by our unwillingness or inability in this country to address the problem effectively. I find that the way the message is delivered is as important as the content. But there is such a long way to go…

      • Hi, Thomas. I found the link up in Mike’s blog post somewhere, so I guess we both need to thank him!

        Its an important issue. I would elaborate more but I am still a little shaken up by some recent events and will preserve privacy.

  2. Every time a person has jumped off a bridge or something and survived well enough to talk about it they all seem to say the same thing. “The instant my feet left the bridge I immediately felt an overwhelming sense that this was the dumbest thing a person can ever do and they wanted a way back”. Kinda sad when you think about it says about suicide in general. Teaching this to at risk clients, or just kids in general might be a start.

    • I would separate temporary despondency from end of life decisions. We need to address Right to Die in all fifty states. Recall that George Eastman put a bullet in his chest because he felt his life was getting untenable. My grandfather took pills for the same reason.

      For the rest of us, the joint NSSF/ASFP venture is a good start but it would help if we could build some trust between pro gun and gun violence prevention communities. Two thirds of U.S. gun deaths are suicides. As I am finding out this legislative session, getting both sides to recognize that if we stopped the bobbery we might actually be able to reduce deaths by gunshot is a tough sell to both the NRA/GOA and its opponents like Everytown and Americans for Responsible Solutions.

  3. My condolences, Khal. I completely agree that one needs to distinguish between suicide as we usually think of it and end of life decisions that occur after considerable deliberation. As for finding a third way, where does one start? And legislative decisions usually follow an adversarial process where someone ultimately wins and someone loses, although compromises may take place along the way to get the bill through.

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