On guns and suicide
DO guns make suicide easier?
“Jon Stewart makes a lot of good points, or at least points worth thinking about. In the end, though, he comes up well short of proposing meaningful reforms. In that failure, too, he’s capturing the anti-gun zeitgeist….
That 30,000 number stood out to me because it seemed very high. According to the FBI, in 2011, there was a total of 8,583 firearm homicides in the U.S. That may well be 8,583 gun murders too many, but it’s nowhere near 30,000 (the total number of murders by all methods came to 12,664). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses a different method and found about 11,000 gun-related murders in 2011 and the total number of homicides to be around 16,000 (see table 2). So How did Stewart get to 30,000? By adding the number of gun-related suicides to the number of homicides.
…I think the people that lump gun deaths together believe (or want others to believe) that guns are really dangerous. When it comes to suicide, there are 2 ways to think about the deadly effectiveness of guns: 1. For those who really want to kill themselves, guns are a sensible choice, or 2. The scary deadliness of a gun tempts weak/impulsive persons to go ahead and do something that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
You can easily see that those 2 ways to think represent the mindsets that lead to libertarian or authoritarian answers to all sorts of questions. #1 would allow the individual to make his own decisions and to take care of himself, and #2 thinks the individual — call her Julia — needs to be helped and protected (even from herself).
What role does sex play?
…4x as many men as women commit suicide and 56% of male suicides use firearms compared to only 30% of female suicides. Those statistics are skewed by the fact that guns are an effective method. It might be that the gender disproportion is because men choose the method that leaves fewer survivors of attempts at suicide. I note that 40% of female suicides use “poisoning” (presumably, that includes drug overdosing). What’s the proportion of females attempting suicide by poisoning to females succeeding in killing themselves with poison?
Is it evil?
It occurred to me, after the Sandy Hook murders, that blaming guns is a secular substitute for blaming the devil. People find it too challenging to figure out why a human being would do this terrible thing and they latch on to the idea that the gun made it happen. Suicide presents a similar challenge, and one way to fathom it is to say: It was the gun. Isn’t it like saying the devil made him do it? The gun/the devil is a great go-to answer, freeing you from wracking your brain about the workings of the human mind.
Photo: Daniel White of Estes Park, Colo., waves a placard at a pro-gun rally as the Colorado Legislature opened its general session across the street in the State Capitol in Denver on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. About 100 protesters, many of them attracted by flyers they picked up at gun shows, waved signs calling on lawmakers to reject gun-control measures in response to mass shootings in Colorado and elsewhere last year. Inside, lawmakers were already talking about guns. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)