Guns in the home and suicide
“I’ve got guns in my head, and they won’t go.” After the Orlando shooting, I was curious to understand how guns impact our society. As disturbing as mass shootings like Orlando and Newtown are, these incidents are a drop in the bucket of the total blood spilled at the barrel of a gun each year. I say this not to detract or dismiss the collective horror we are feeling about Orlando, but to serve as an sobering and disturbing commentary on the extent of the damage our gun-culture is inflicting on families and communities across our nation.
When we talk about firearm deaths, the media coverage for mass shootings exponentially outweighs the everyday homicides that may take a few lines on page 3 of the local paper. That is only natural. We are human, these mass shooting are big, and we are rightly sickened and disturbed at the potential destruction that one mentally deranged murderer can inflict.
Further down our collective conscientiousness are the suicides that are claiming the lives of Americans young and old.
In 2013, suicides with firearms claimed almost twice as many lives as homicide with firearms.
In 2013, there were 41,149 suicide deaths. Of those, 21,185 were committed with a firearm. The number of total homicides in 2013 was 16,121, of which 11,208 were firearms related. See Page 52 of the CDC report below.
If someone wants to commit suicide, they will do it whether they have access to a gun or not, right?
Andrew Anglemyer, an epidemiologist from the University of California, San Francisco, found that people who lived in homes with firearms were between two and three times more like to die of suicide or murder.
There is an excellent report published by the the Brady Center, showing how gun ownership has a strong correlation in suicide deaths.
Here are some key points of this Brady Center reports:
- “If a gun is not available in the home, it is rarely used as a method of suicide.” See Page 31.
- 50.9% of all fatal suicides are committed with a firearm.
- Only .8% of non-fatal suicide attempts are committed with a firearm. Essentially, when firearms are used in suicide attempts the lethality is very high.
- 85–91% of suicide attempts with a firearm end in a fatality.
- In contrast, poisoning comprise only 16.8% of fatal suicides, and represent 55.7% of non-fatal suicide attempts.
- 90% of people who attempt suicide and survive do not go on to die by suicide.
Want to protect your love ones? Leave the guns to the police.
Orlando has freaked us out. Are we safe? Should we get a registered handgun to protect ourselves? Should states allow concealed weapons?
Owing a weapon is a dangerous proposition. This post is highlighting the risk and correlation between gun ownership and suicide. What this post does not discuss is how race matters for gun ownership, homicide and suicide. Here is the link to that post.
I know that no one wants to talk about suicide, but that is what makes this topic so critical. At a time when we are examining our attitudes to guns and gun legislation, we should take the time to understand where guns are creating the most damage. We certainly have a gun homicide issue, in fact the highest level of any 1st world country by far.
Yet, our dirty secret is our gun suicide problem. Americans love our guns, but at what cost? If you knew that your children are 2 to 3 times more likely to die of a homicide or suicide if you have a gun in your household, would you still want to own one?