Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Guns and suicide, Part 2

I know I have addressed this issue before but this article from the StarTribune is so tragic that I need to discuss it again. Two young teen-agers killed themselves in a seeming suicide pact, according to news sources.  A long gun was found near the bodies. It would be difficult for these two to have committed double suicide with knives or hangings, though that is possible. Guns just make it so easy and so quick. It's over so quickly with no time to change minds. Guns are the cause of more suicides than any other weapon and outnumber gun homicides. One of the questions I asked on my blog, "Where there is an open mind....", was, " Do you believe that people who commit suicide with a gun should be included in the gun statistics?" Here are a some of the responses:
  • No."
  • "  No. People who wish to kill themselves will do so with whatever means are handy. I cannot see how it is an improvement if someone, instead of shooting himself, decides to take a pavement swan dive. Maybe we as a society need to have a serious discussion about why so many men over the age of 40 kill themselves. Rather than restrict firearms, maybe we should try to get at the root of the problem. See this graphic-http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/04/21/weekinreview/20070422_MARSH_GRAPHIC.html
    The suicide in the white men 40 and up just jumps right out at you, doesn’t it? Why does no one seem to care? Are older white men expendable?"
  • Yes, they should be included in 'gun statistics'. Should those statistics be used to restrict my rights, NO."
  •  I don't think that guns cause suicide and that the category of “gun deaths” is not internally consistent. I personally support an individual right to life and right to control that life including ending it. Thus I don’t think suicides ought to be blamed on the means (guns here) which I think is the point of a gun deaths statistic."
  • I don't think it matters, as long as we're defining our terms clearly. Suicide with a gun is deadly serious, though, not a "cry for help", and I think it's very poor reasoning to talk about "gun suicides" as though eliminating the guns would have prevented those deaths. Japan is absolute proof that you don't get a low suicide rate by removing guns. You can include it all you want, but I don't see a compelling public policy interest in that half of our "gun deaths". "
  • No. Does the Housing Authority include suicide jumpers when inspecting buildings?"
  • Statistics have to include everything ... but likewise you have to analyze statistics for what they mean. In terms of suicide, for instance ... we know that guns have nothing to do with the numbers, that when people decide to kill themselves they'll sometimes use a gun if available but if not they don't just change their minds. Last I looked Japan and Norway, with virtually no civilian gun ownership, have higher suicide rates than we do. And in any case US suicide rates are NOT higher in general than other countries, they are about average. So there's nothing wrong with tracking gun suicide statistics, but they have no meaning to the pro-gun/anti-gun debate."
  • What I never understood is why there are "gun statistics" but not "baseball bat statistics", "rope statistics" or "lawnmower statistics" (interestingly, in Britain, there are "knife statistics"). I have never seen a logical reason for statistics like this to be connected with any particular object. To more specifically answer your question: I think that whether suicide utilizing a firearm is included with a statistic depends on the statistic; it would be just as out of place in statistics about "accidental gun deaths" as in "lawns mowed". However, it would be right at home in a statistic like "persons killed by guns within American borders per year". But more to the point, what relevance do these statistics possess?"
I don't know if any conclusions can be drawn based on the responses above. The one thing they have in common, though, is the mention about other countries having higher numbers of suicides than the U.S. Other countries, of course, don't have the problem with firearm suicides that we do and that is what I am blogging about. I have made this point several times in answer to these responses and at other times. Here, again, are the CDC WISQARS numbers for suicide as an overall cause of death: In 2007, there were 17,352 Firearm suicides. In all age groups from age 15 to 45 , firearms was the leading cause of suicide deaths, followed by suffocation, and poisoning. In age groups from 35-64, suicide by firearm was the 3rd cause of violent death following unintentional poisoning and motor vehicle accidents. These are convincing numbers showing that a firearm is the most often used method of committing suicide in most age groups. Firearms are more deadly and quicker. So I don't know if the commenters were suggesting that because the numbers in the U.S. are not as high as in other countries, we shouldn't make attempts to work on the problem.

Here is some information about Norway, since it was brought up (above), from a Norwegian source: " Summary: On average, males choose the suicide method by: hanging (35.5%) ; firearms & explosive materials (32.7%) ; poison (20.2%) ; drowning (5.0%) ; jumping from high place (4.1%) ; cutting/piercing (2.5%). On the other hand, females choose: poison (40.4%) ; hanging (29.7%) ; drowning (16.4%) ; jumping from high place (7.8%) ;  firearms & explosive materials (3.2%); cutting/piercing (2.5%)." 

The Japanese have a high suicide rate and numbers- about double the number in the U.S.- 32,155 in 2007. From this article: " The most common methods were hanging or other forms of suffocation, poisonous gas or jumping from high places or in front of trains, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry." I didn't see a mention of firearms in this article. It notes that there suicide prevention programs because of this national health problem in Japan.
And about England, I found this entry as to the method of suicides: " 1) Hanging 2) Firearms 3) Co-proxamol poisoning 4) Self-poisoning in which the individual reached hospital alive." The U.S. does not have the highest suicide numbers or rates in the world. Japan seems to be a leading contender there. Some other countries have more suicides than the U.S.-but this study ( in abstract form) concludes: " the US firearm suicide rates were 5.8 times higher than in the other countries, though overall suicide rates were 30% lower." And, finally, from Wikipedia, there is some conflicting information from that above showing that the U.S. is lower than many other countries as to rate of suicides per 100,000. We rank 40th according to this entry.

In the U.S., there are also organizations working to reduce suicide. One of the ways to prevent suicide is to make sure that guns are not easily accessible to young teens and young adults. If there is depression or other problems, certainly consideration should be given to not having guns around when there are teen-agers or making sure they are securely locked. So certainly the numbers of suicide deaths in the U.S. are high. Over 17,000 in 2007 and the majority with firearms. It's just common sense to work on how guns contribute to our own national health problem with suicide and to try to prevent firearm suicides in the first place.


  1. It's just common sense to work on how guns contribute to our own national health problem with suicide and to try to prevent firearm suicides in the first place.

    Common sense says that it is impossible to make a suicide rate go to zero, therefore the goal should be to minimize, not eliminate, suicide. Common sense is logical correct?

    So logically, if we want to minimize suicide, and as a subset of suicide the use of firearms to kill oneself, then we have to ask.

    So we have to ask; How do guns contribute? Do guns in the US contribute to it's relatively low suicide rate? Do guns allow suicidal individuals to kill only themselves in the act of suicide?

    In Germany a "Ghost Driver" drives the wrong way on the autobahn to cause an accident and commit suicide.
    By keeping the "Geisterfahrer" off of our roadways we can see a clear benefit to easy access to firearms.

    Clearly a gun allows someone to kill themselves without involving other people, something that stepping in front of a train, or driving the wrong way in traffic, does not.

    When you can show that somehow restricting firearms to law abiding citizens will have a positive impact in lowering TOTAL suicides in the US, then it will be common sense to do so.

    Until then, you encourage people to take even riskier methods such as poison gas or traffic, which increases the risks to other people.

    If restricting access to firearms caused the suicide rate to go up, would you support repealing restrictions?

  2. You must have missed the part about gun suicides being the largest number of gun deaths in our country. I don't consider that a relatively low rate even if it's lower than other countries. It is way too many deaths. As to your other comments, they are so obtuse that they are not worth answering.

  3. Here's a link to the combined murder/suicide rate chart for several countries.


    Who knows why the rate of suicide is relatively low and the murder rate is relatively high in the US. Maybe our sociopaths turn their violence outward rather than inward.

  4. Would it make you feel better if people killed themselves by jumping out of windows? I lived in the Czech Republic for a while, and instead of shooting themselves, many Czechs would jump in front of the metro or jump off a bridge:

    If people are going to kill themselves, they're going to kill themselves. When they jump off a bridge or in front of a metro, they may take other people out with them. People have a right to kill themselves, and if they want to use a gun, or sleeping pills, or whatever, then it's unfortunate but so be it. I don't see the number of gun suicides as anything other than one of the many ways people choose to kill themselves. If guns magically disappeared tomorrow, there would be no more gun suicides, but all other types of suicides would spike to compensate. Blaming the gun gets old.

  5. Guns and suicide are a national disgrace. Only the most biased or self-centered pro-gun person would argue with that. Attempting this desperate act with a gun is more likely to succeed than the other major methods. That fact combined with the idea that most of these tragedies are acts of temporary insanity and not rational thought-out decisions like the gun lovers say, means removing easy access to guns would help. It's only common (gun)sense.

  6. I know why the homicide rate is so high in the U.S.- guns. That is widely recognized in other countries. People I know who have lived abroad tell me that citizens in other countries are mystified by our gun culture here. Suicide is lower than other countries but guns are responsible for the majority of the suicides.

  7. Wow- some of these remarks are getting more ridiculous as we go on. "People have a right to kill themselves, " I suppose they do, but if it were your son, would you feel that way? Would you feel like you would have wanted to do something to prevent this senseless death? This is nonsense.

  8. I know why the homicide rate is so high in the U.S.- guns.

    Except that simply does not hold true. The number of firearms in private possession increases every single year, and yet for the past four years, the murder rate has been decreasing steadily. In fact, if one were to examine the historical trending of "number of firearms versus murder rates", you would find effectively no correlation, indicating that America's high murder rate cannot caused by guns.

    On the flip side, back in the 1200s, England had a murder rate of approximately 20 per 100,000 - about four times greater than what America's rate is today. Do you know what coincided with the single largest decline in homicide rates in English history? The introduction of the flintlock.

    Regarding suicides, your efforts would be considerably better spent on preventing the suicides in general, rather than trying to "keep firearms off the streets" or whatever it is your goals are - Australia shows us that:

    When the firearm suicide rate for Australian males declined the hanging rate increased simultaneously, with no statistical difference in the rate of change of the two methods. A similar pattern of simultaneous divergence in hanging and firearm suicide rates of a 15- to 24-year-old subgroup occurred at a not dissimilar rate over a longer time period. Rates of suicide by hanging were found to have begun increasing prior to the decline in firearm suicide. The declining rate of firearm suicide in the 15- to 24-year-old subgroup coincided with an increase in the overall suicide rate.

    Peple who want to kill themselves are going to kill themselves, with whatever methods are available. They may prefer certain methods (and I certainly will not begrudge someone a less-painful method), but they are going to do it regardless. Stemming off the root desire tends to yield far better results than hand-wringing over the methodology.

  9. "I know why the homicide rate is so high in the U.S.- guns."

    What evidence do you have to support this claim?

    Are you saying that if we had no guns (or substantially fewer) that the murder rate would go down?

    Do you seriously believe that the murders are caused by the guns?

  10. It's interesting that you mock the assertion that people have a right to kill themselves, and then immediately agree with it.

    If homicide is so high in the US because of guns, then why is it so low in Switzerland, which has far more guns per capita than the US?

    Guns = higher homicide just doesn't work. It's more complicated than that. We don't have a gun problem, we have a criminal problem. While you're crusading against guns, the criminals are ignoring every gun law on the books, because they're out on the street instead of locked up where they belong.

  11. I will continue with my efforts to prevent homicides and suicides w
    by gun. The gun homicide rate in the U.S. has rained about the same for some years now.

  12. Yes and yes to the questions above

  13. I will continue with my efforts to prevent homicides and suicides w by gun.

    So you are admitting that you don't really care about suicides, unless it supports your cause. Got it.

    The gun homicide rate in the U.S. has rained about the same for some years now.

    ...as the number of new firearms purchases skyrocketed, and the overall rate went up.

  14. You must have read something else,Mike. You will nit find that I agreed with your assertion. Do you think you can just make this stuff up?

  15. First of all,the word I meant above is remained,not "rained ". IPhones can do that sometimes. Second of all, homicide numbers and rates have never been equated to the number of guns owned. I have not seen this comparison. I care about those numbers sine they all represent a person that was loved by others and missed by loved ones and friends. The number of households with guns has gone down but the number of guns per owner has gone up. I not sure what that says exactly. What fo you want to prove with your statement ?
    Ore guns have not changed the number of gun deaths and injuries which,taken together, add up to more than 100,000. If you don't find that number staggering, then maybe you don,t care about the human lives lost.

  16. "You must have read something else,Mike. You will nit find that I agreed with your assertion. Do you think you can just make this stuff up?"

    My assertion:
    "People have a right to kill themselves"

    Your reply:
    "I suppose they do"

    I was hoping to engage in honest intellectual debate about this topic because it's very dear to me. I am saddened that attempts to engage on an academic level are met with emotional pleas:

    "If you don't find that number staggering, then maybe you don,t care about the human lives lost."

  17. What does caring have to do with anything?

    I thought you about common sense and logical solutions. Caring doesn't factor into either of those.

  18. Is there a reason my comments are being censored again? After seeing what some people write, I dont blame you for the heavy moderation, but I did not say anything rude, offensive, or insulting, so I'm curious why you didn't publish my comment...


  19. Not saying I support that right. I wpuldnot make that statement in isolation As you know, I qualified it by saying I want to stop them from doing so and particularly with guns since that is the most used method in this country. At least I am trying to do something. What are you doing?

  20. Anon-What????that is total nonsense. Caring figures into all that I do. I'm sorry that it doesn't for you. You cannot judge me in that way. You don't know me. Leave this one alone. I will not respond to any more accusatory responses from you.

  21. Rob,

    Truthfully I can't remember your comments or why I did not publish them. I'm glad to see that someone recognizes that some of these comments are not productive to anything useful. In fact, the comments here have pretty much become so nonsensical that unless there is something new, I will not be publishing more on this post. I have a life and will be doing other things with it. I suggest that you all take break and spend so
    e time with your families. I am tired of being harassed on this beautiful day.

  22. If we frame gun control as an issue of caring v. Not caring, that makes it an even more interesting debate.

    The pro-gun viewpoint is very selfish: I want my guns, no matter what the cost is to society. If it means that there is more crime, I don't care. I will argue that my guns prevent it as the cost to society from gun violence rises. I will do everything possible to distract the masses from that fact that gun violence is a vast cost to society.

    The gun control side: we care about the victims and the cost to society from gun violence.

    Selfishness v. caring--which should prevail?

  23. How many gun suicides kill or shoot others before they kill themselves? It seems the two are tied together quite frequently here in the USA.

  24. Suicide should be prevented by focusing on what makes someone suicidal. Focusing on preventing suicides that would be commited with a gun does nothing for the people who will commit suicide with a knife, by stepping in front of a car/train/bus, by overdosing on pills, etc. Anytime we try to prevent suicide by focusing on what someone uses to commit the act, we are focusing on the wrong thing. Even if you could take away everything a person might use to take their own life, it doesn't change the torment they are going through inside and the fact that they want to die. Focus on doing something about that, and you won't have to worry about what they would have used to do it.

    Please understand that I say this as someone who grew up in a home with guns present, went through depression in my teeange years that drove me to the point of attempting suicide (It was a chemical imbalance in the brain, and my parents found treatment for me and were active in that treatment), and did not try to use one of the guns in the home to do it. My father once showed me what happened if one of his guns was fired at a melon and then told me it would do the same thing to a human being. He made it clear that the gun could not do that if it wasn't touched, and that no matter how much I might *think* I knew what I was doing I was NEVER to touch one of his guns without his permission and assitance. He made it clear this was an issue of safety, not something that was up for debate if I disagreed. The importance of not handling his guns was so deeply embedded in my mind that it didn't even occur to me as an option when I planned my suicide.

    Thankfully, the method I did plan resulted in my attempt being interrupted and me getting treatment. It would have been even better if my desire to die could have been prevented, though. Treat the cause, not the symptom.

  25. Thanks for sharing your amazing story. I'm glad your father did what he did and that you got help. What I don't understand here is the resistance of so many folks commenting on this blog to my encouraging safe storage of guns and making sure people who are very mentally ill or have other problems do not have access to guns. That just makes common sense to me. It may save lives. That does not mean that I don't also want to get at the root causes of suicide. But the evidence is plain that guns cause more suicide than other methods and that gun suicides are ahead of gun homicides as to the number of gun deaths in our country. So, even if you all want me to stop working on this, it just does not make sense. Why can't you all admit that guns do contribute to a great number of suicides and that there are things that can be done? As I have said many many times before. There are a lot of causes in the country on which to spend time. I have chosen to spend my time on this one. It is useless for you all to tell me I shouldn't. I just don't get that. What benefit is that to you all? If I stop advocating for common sense concerning prevention of gun homicides, suicides and accidental deaths, will that do something for you? Why do you all persist in this nonsensical argument?

  26. I'm not sure how many times we have to repeat this, the gun does not cause the suicide (or the murder, either).

    Safe storage is a stalking horse for reducing the availability of firearms. First it makes it difficult or impossible to get to in a hurry. Secondly it adds another cost to an already expensive proposition. My little easy open safe cost $200. The only cheaper options make the gun basically unusable in an emergency. Forcing people to store their guns inoperative (trigger locked) or expensively (anything else) makes it difficult for less well heeled people to buy a gun. That's not an accident, for the Anti-gun types, it's the point.

    Google "Merced Pitchfork Murders," and learn what "safe storage" bought a suburban family.

  27. Australia enacted strict gun control, but didn't see a decrease in suicides until better treatment for depression came about. http://www.suicide.org/australian-doctors-help-reduce-suicides.html

    In contrast with Japan, where last year over 32,000 people killed themselves. Notice that the total "death rate" between the US and Japan is very similar, it is just that about half of the US death rate is suicide, where over 95% of the death rate in Japan is suicide. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20100610a2.html

    The United States is on par with Sweden and Norway for suicide rates, and less than New Zealand and South Korea. http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suiciderates/en/

    It seems clear to me, that if you want to prevent suicides we need to be addressing mental health issues, not gun control.

    For example, veterans account for 1 in every 5 suicides in the US. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49971 by targeting known at risk populations for mental health services, teens, elderly, veterans, etc, we could do more to both serve those populations and reduce our national suicide rate.

    Having had to deal with the aftermath of veterans suicides, the biggest thing I know that we can do is to eliminate the stigma of counseling and medication. Both known suicides I've dealt with for veterans (the third is still under investigation) both individuals were successful in their careers, not pending any disciplinary actions, and didn't leave a note.

    But I've been doing my best to help returning soldiers deal with the "Operational Stress" that is normal for people returning from abnormal experiences.

  28. K. Martinez -- that was a great post and it's so wonderful that you could share that with us.

    Surely you must realize that one of the reasons you could share that story is because you chose not to use a gun to end your life. If you had chosen a gun, you most likely would have ended it, and that would have been the end. You would not be here to post that story or anything else.

    Treating the cause is important, but the gun was not a symptom or the cause. The gun was a METHOD. No one can treat methods. Methods can only be eliminated. Eliminating guns as a method would be a good thing. And perhaps, somewhere down the road, there will be elimination of the causes of suicide, and that would be an even better thing. But, in the meantime, I think it's beneficial that we remove guns as a METHOD of committing suicide.

    I think your father would probably agree with me.

  29. Well, when you are dealing with a deadly weapon that can take a life, no amount of money is too much. When people own guns, they have a responsibility to make sure they are not used for the wrong purpose or by children or someone who should not have access. If people can't afford it, perhaps they should think twice about owning expensive guns. I don't know how many times I need to say this- Guns take the lives of way too many people by suicide or homicide. There are ways to save lives and I am working towards that end.

  30. Thanks anonymous, for your thoughtful post about methods of suicide. And thanks to the person who posted about working with veterans. My brother is a veteran of the Viet Nam war and has suffered from PTSD. I do worry about him. He has guns. If he were not receiving help right now, I would consider speaking to him about his guns and asking him to consider not having them around his house. He is single so has no one else to help him with his problems. And yes, we have a terrible problem right now with veterans and suicide. Also with homicide. According to articles I have read, guns are commonly used by these veterans to end their own lives or those of others. These veterans surely know how deadly guns are. They know that a life can end in split seconds. Guns are effective methods for suicide and homicide. That explains why they are so often used and why they account for the largest number of suicides and homicides. Working to prevent that from happening will help save lives. That's why I am doing what I am doing. I don't care about your guns unless you plan to use them to kill yourself or someone else.

  31. Well, when you are dealing with a deadly weapon that can take a life, no amount of money is too much

    I can afford a home security system, reinforced doors, a big dog, and to live in a low-crime neighborhood (where the rest of that stuff isn't really needed). I would agree that people should take steps to ensure their guns can't be misused consistent with their wealth. This doesn't have to be expensive, if the requirements aren't rigid and a little imagination is used--a sturdy toolbox with a padlock, chained to something large is enough to keep guns safe around children.

    But the idea that constitutional rights are only available to those who can afford extra fees and requirements added by government is repulsive to me.

    Every arbitrary feature required on a gun, every requirement for storage, training, licensing, registration, paperwork, extra trips to a government office--all these things disproportionately reduce legal access to the low income people who can't afford a safe neighborhood--the people who need guns the worst. Enough of them result in a defacto gun ban.

    A reporter went through the process required to buy a handgun in DC. He spent $558.69, plus 15 hours 50 minutes, four trips to the Metropolitan Police Department, two background checks, a set of fingerprints, a five-hour class and a 20-question multiple-choice exam. This did not include the price of the gun.

    And the Brady Campaign who 'doesn't want to ban guns' fought against making it that easy.

  32. When it comes to something as deadly as a gun, it's important to make sure people are not going to be prohibited and that they will be responsible owners. That's what is done in most other countries where accessing guns is much more difficult. And guess what, gun homicides are fewer by a very large margin. Cars are more expensive now that there are mandatory seat belts, air bags and other safety devices. People have to renew drivers' licenses at a cost and their license plates and also take a fairly intensive training course to drive and pass a written exam. What's the problem with the same for guns again? I've heard that illegal street guns are pretty cheap. Is that where gangs and people who don't have the money to buy guns through the legal system get their guns? I don't know- I'm just wondering. There certainly seem to be a lot of those guns available to young people and felons who presumably don't have a lot of money.

  33. japete, veterans as a group are actually less likely to commit homicide than the general population. The "Taxi Driver" myth of the violent veteran has been a stigma for years, and it just won't go away.

  34. Joan - That's a false comparison. There is no right to own or drive a car.

  35. Ah, there's the rub. Because owning a gun is a right, it can't be regulated. That is where you are wrong. In both the Heller and MacDonald decisions, Justices made specific reference to the idea that who can own guns, and what type of guns they can have and where they can carry can still be regulated.

  36. Ah, there's the rub. Because owning a gun is a right, it can't be regulated. That is where you are wrong.

    Nope. I'm not wrong because I never made any such claim.