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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The NRA prevents common sense suicide discussion

How in the world can the NRA stand in the way of honest and common sense discussion about the risk of gun suicide to Veterans? You wouldn't be surprised to find out that there is a proposed bill to silence the military about the risks of having guns available when active or retired military members are experiencing mental health issues. This is dishonest and disturbing. The stupid and dangerous illogical arguments coming from the gun lobby are standing in the way of saving lives. It's pretty well known that suicide is on the increase among our Veterans many of whom have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during or after their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never mind. The NRA thinks it knows more about this than the military commanders themselves:
While commanders are permitted to ask troops who appear to be a danger to themselves or others about private firearms – or to suggest perhaps locking them temporarily in a base depot – if the soldier denies that he or she is thinking about harming anyone, then the commander cannot pursue the discussion further.
Nearly half of all soldiers who commit suicide use a firearm, General Chiarelli points out. He added that “suicide in most cases is a spontaneous event” that is often fueled by drugs and alcohol. But “if you can separate the individual from the weapon,” he added, “you can lower the incidences of suicide.”
The arrogance of the NRA is stunning. Suicide is the cause of more gun deaths in America than homicide. In my state of Minnesota, suicide accounts for about 70% of the gun deaths. Putting our heads in the sand purposefully is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous. Let's take a look at some facts here:
  • This CDC WISQARS report shows the incident of gun homicides and suicides by age under the violent death category. If you click on the colored box, there are specifics for each cause of death and suicide and homicide by firearm are clearly among the highest overall causes of death among some age groups in the U.S.
  • From this site- " Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. And the most common mental illness is depression."
The New England Journal of Medicine has a study about guns and suicide. In the report, the risks of guns in the home are discussed.
In 2005, the most recent year for which mortality data are available, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among Americans 40 years of age or younger. Among Americans of all ages, more than half of all suicides are gun suicides. In 2005, an average of 46 Americans per day committed suicide with a firearm, accounting for 53% of all completed suicides. Gun suicide during this period accounted for 40% more deaths than gun homicide.
(...) The empirical evidence linking suicide risk in the United States to the presence of firearms in the home is compelling. 3 There are at least a dozen U.S. case–control studies in the peer-reviewed literature, all of which have found that a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of suicide. The increase in risk is large, typically 2 to 10 times that in homes without guns, depending on the sample population (e.g., adolescents vs. older adults) and on the way in which the firearms were stored. The association between guns in the home and the risk of suicide is due entirely to a large increase in the risk of suicide by firearm that is not counterbalanced by a reduced risk of non firearm suicide. Moreover, the increased risk of suicide is not explained by increased psychopathologic characteristics, suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts among members of gun-owning households. 
Now we already know that the NRA does not appreciate anyone, including professionals who know a whole lot more about morbidity and mortality than they do, explaining the risks of guns to at risk individuals. (See the case of the Florida law to ban physicians from discussing the risks of guns in the home). But here, again, is the reason why both physicians and military personnel have a responsibility to share information with patients and/or military members who are at risk:
The recent Supreme Court decision may lead to higher rates of gun ownership. Such an outcome would increase the incidence of suicide. Two complementary approaches are available to physicians to help counter this possibility: to try to reduce the number of suicide attempts (e.g., by recognizing and treating mental illness) and to try to reduce the probability that suicide attempts will prove fatal (e.g., by reducing access to lethal means). Many U.S. physicians, from primary care practitioners to psychiatrists, focus exclusively on the first approach. Yet international experts have concluded that restriction of access to lethal means is one of the few suicide-prevention policies with proven effectiveness.5
The NRA should butt out when it comes to decisions made in the best interest of individuals under the care of certain professionals. What gives them the nerve to interfere with these important decisions? The NRA's cynical claim that alerting people to the danger of guns for those at risk of suicide or accidental deaths is tantamount to confiscating guns of law abiding gun owners, is totally ludicrous and should be ignored by our elected leaders. It's time to stand up for prevention of senseless deaths and injuries. Not to do so is totally irresponsible and self serving. The NRA should be ashamed of its' stand on this issue. And any elected leaders who vote in favor of a measure to prevent the discussion of guns and suicide risk should look in the mirror and wonder what they would do if a friend or family member connected to the military committed suicide by gun. Where is common sense? Where is actual concern for saving lives? Does the NRA and the gun rights extremists care about this Minnesota active duty soldier who just shot himself?
Craig Mertz, of Chanhassen, identified David Mertz as his son to the Chanhassen Villager on Monday and said his son had been deployed to Iraq with a combat engineer brigade that cleared mine fields. Craig Mertz told the newspaper his son was despondent after suffering a back injury and also had expressed concerns about what he had witnessed in Iraq. Craig Mertz could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Mertz is at least the fourth active-duty soldier from Minnesota to have killed himself in recent years as the U.S. military struggles with record levels of suicide.
I am not the only one to notice the travesty of not allowing for discussion of guns for at-risk military members for suicide. Here is Think Progress on the issue.
More than 462 troops took their own lives in 2010, and suicide rates have only gotten worse: July 2011 marked the highest monthly total on record. The report estimates that “from 2005 to 2010, service members took their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours,” while Veterans Affairs says that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes. According to the CNAS report, 48 percent of military suicides in 2010 took place with personally owned weapons.
Does the NRA and its' bought and paid for politicians truly understand the proportion of suicides to combat deaths? If they do, have they chosen to ignore the facts? If so, why? Questions need to be asked and I hope my readers will ask them and hold our elected officials responsible for their votes. This article by Media Matters also highlights the concerns about the proposed bill. Will Senator Inhofe understand the danger in getting his amendment passed? Would he rather support the extreme positions of the NRA than at-risk veterans and active military personnel?
In response, NRA pushed a law which top military commanders fear puts U.S. troops in greater danger of suicide. Under the law, adopted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, the Defense Department may not "prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm" by a member of the Armed Forces.
According to the Army's second-highest-ranking officer, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, this prevents commanders from engaging in important discussions with soldier about weapons safety, which may put them at higher risk of suicide:
Again, I say, shame on them for putting the interests of the gun lobby ahead of safety for our veterans and troops. What is the matter with these folks? Have they no common sense? Never mind, don't answer that. The answer is obvious.


  1. The Firearms Owners Protection Act prohibits the US Government or any agency of it from maintaining a registry of non-NFA firearms linking them to their owners.

    Even if the true purpose was to prevent suicides the gun registration is illegal.

  2. I believe the military is wanting to talk to veterans and their families- not register firearms.

  3. japete said...

    I believe the military is wanting to talk to veterans and their families- not register firearms.

    When they are requiring that you list all the firearms you possess with serial numbers, where you keep them and whether you have a concealed carry license on a form which is then filed and included in a database you are registering, not talking. Initially when this was brought out in the open the Military stated that the commanders had just "exceeded their authority."
    But then the program sprung up on other bases clear across the country. So, no, they aren't talking, they are breaking the law and they are aware of it.

  4. The military has no ulterior motives as asserted by the NRA. Here is another editorial about this issue- http://loyalopposition.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/the-gun-lobby-and-military-suicides/?src=tp