Now that Sarah Palin has decided America is the Home of the Free and Land of the Brave because of its devotion to God and the 2nd Amendment, I thought I would do a bit of research about gun violence in her own state. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Sister Sarah’s home state ranks 44th out of the 50 states in terms of the having the most lax gun laws, and is also the 4th highest gun-exporting state, with a gun-export average twice the national state average, notwithstanding that to take a gun from Alaska down to the lower 48 is really quite a trip.
Not only does Alaska impose no state requirements on gun ownership, it doesn’t even require gun dealers to be licensed by the state. Get yourself an FFL and you’re good to go. When I was a gun wholesaler in New York back in the 1980s, we had a customer in Fairbanks who ordered loads of Ruger hunting rifles from us all the time, but this reflected the fact that hunting was and is a major source of tourist dollars in Alaska; I doubt if many of these guns came back to the Lower 48 to be picked up as crime guns.
On the other hand, Alaska’s violent crime rate is remarkably high in and of itself, the rate of aggravated assault twice the rate for the country as a whole, the homicide rate also above the national rate. But yet on the other hand, both the aggravated assault and homicide involving guns is well below the national stats, so maybe Sister Sarah’s on the right track by exhorting us in Jesus’ name to get out there and buy more guns. Except that when it comes to gun violence there’s an elephant in the living room that I haven’t yet mentioned, and that’s the violence which occurs when someone picks up a gun and aims it at themselves.
I will shortly be reviewing a remarkable new book on guns and mental illness that blazes important paths on issues gun-related suicide, so I’m not going to get into that whole issue just yet. But I do want to make it clear that anyone who believes that gun violence and gun suicide should be treated as autonomous and unconnected issues is just trying to find a reason why the public health risks from guns should be ignored. You simply can’t kill yourself as quickly and efficiently any other way; and the moment you contemplate some other method to end it once and for all, you are increasing the possibility that an intervention will occur that will save your life.
And this is where the data from Alaska makes a mockery of Palin’s cynical nonsense about how God’s plan includes ownership of guns. Because of all the 50 states, Alaska has a suicide rate and, in particular, a suicide rate among Alaskan Indians and, even more particularly, a gun-suicide rate among Alaskan Indians that’s a wonder to behold.
The Western states lead the country in suicide with an overall regional rate of 14.13 per 100,000, well above the national rate of 13.02 and far above the Northeast which comes in at 10.38. The highest suicide state is Montana, with 23.94, but right behind it is Alaska at 23.26. But only 60% of the suicides in Montana are committed using a gun, while nearly 70% of suicide victims in Alaska pull out the ol’ firearm when they decide that enough is enough. But here’s the real number to contemplate: Alaska’s Indian population has a suicide rate twice the state’s rate as a whole, and these unfortunate folks have no trouble getting their hands on guns.
Palin’s message is pure crap and she should be ashamed of herself for pandering to the lowest mental denominator she can find. There’s simply no excuse for someone from a state with such horrific gun violence numbers to be promoting God and guns.