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, November 12, 2011

Suicide and college students

Cross posted at Media Matters Gun Fact

A new study, just released, reveals that suicide is the leading cause of death for college students. This should not be a big surprise given that mental illness is sometimes first diagnosed at the age when kids are attending college. The combination of the volatility of kids of college age, drug and alcohol abuse, pressures to succeed, kids living away from home, and mental illness can lead to bad results. Any of my readers who have or have had college aged kids understand this. When my kids were in college, both away from home, there were times when they were vulnerable. There were break-ups in relationships, tough and demanding classes, pressures to drink and party, problems with roommates, pressures to be good enough students to be noticed by job recruiters and the pressures to get a job out of college. Luckily, they both survived pretty well and now have productive jobs, good marriages and kids of their own. It will be their turn to worry about these things when their own kids get old enough to experience what they went through as older teens and young adults.

During the summer after my daughter's first year at college, a tragedy happened. The boyfriend of her very good high school and college friend committed suicide. The boy also attended the same college as her friend and herself. This young man had had a problem with alcohol for a few years and on this night, he had too much to drink. He hung himself from a tree near his home. This was the first death of a peer my daughter and her friends had experienced. They spent a lot of time together that summer sorting out their feelings and comforting each other. When they went back to classes that fall, their college worked with the students and helped them get through a difficult time.

Here are some facts about suicides and teens/young adults:
Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
Firearms account for 50 percent of all suicides.
Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:
depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.2
prior suicide attempt
family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
family history of suicide
family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
firearms in the home,3 the method used in more than half of suicides
exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.2
and also this: 
"As in the general population, young people were much more likely to use firearms, suffocation, and poisoning than other methods of suicide, overall. However, while adolescents and young adults were more likely to use firearms than suffocation, children were dramatically more likely to use suffocation.1
There were also gender differences in suicide among young people, as follows:
Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide.1
Just under six times as many males as females ages 20 to 24 died by suicide.1"
Is there any doubt that having a firearm, especially in the home, is a risk for suicide? No. And yet some of the gun rights extremists don't like it when physicians or military personnel advise people not to have guns around when someone is at risk for mental illness and/or suicide. I have written about this many times before in my blog. Why would anyone want to stop professionals who understand health care risks to save lives of their patients/clients?

Another question is begging to be asked. Why is it a good idea for students and others to be able to carry guns on college campuses? Given the information I have provided above, we can see that young adults of college age are at risk for suicide, no matter where they live. Firearms are the method most used in suicides. The chances would necessarily increase of college kids using guns to kill themselves if guns are allowed on campus. Since the rate of suicide of this age group, though high, is lower for students on campus than others of the same age, perhaps we can assume that where guns are not allowed, young people are safer. Further, these guns will not be used to defend against a shooter as the gun rights extremists claim. Just ask Colin Goddard and other students who survived the Virginia Tech massacre if a gun would have saved them.

The answer is resoundingly,"No". Seung- Hui Cho was mentally ill. In the end he killed himself. That is often the case in mass shootings or even domestic shootings. The shooter is suicidal but takes other lives with him or her. Firearms make that so much easier. You just don't hear about mass suffocations or mass poisonings ( except for the cult suicide case of Jonestown, Guyana).

So, what to do. Dealing with the mental illness before it gets to the point of a mass shooting or a shooting of any kind is the first step. Making sure the names of adjudicated mentally ill people get sent by states to the NICS list is another. ( to date many of the names have not been sent by states) Making sure guns are stored safely away from kids at home is yet another. Prohibiting students and others from carrying guns on campus is very important. There are some places where guns should not be and there are some people who should not have guns. Thinking of not having guns in the home when you have small children and teens is an option for people. And listening to the advice of professionals who understand that mental illness and guns do not go together is just plain common sense.

But none of this matters to the NRA and the gun rights extremists. If they can find another group and another place for guns to be carried, gun sales will increase. Just follow the money. I have discussed that many times as well on this blog. So the NRA pushes and pushes for guns on college campuses. They have not managed to win many of their campaigns in that regard. Generally speaking, people don't want to see students with guns on college campuses. We all know that there have been mass shootings on college campuses. In spite of that, students are generally more safe on campus than on our streets or even at home where most of the shootings in this country take place. But if guns are now to become part of the scene on college campuses, it is likely that there will be more shootings on the streets within the campuses and in the dorms or campus housing units that students call home. Rarely would they be used to defend against a shooter. Further, how will college security and/or police know the difference between a shooter and permit holder in a chaotic scene at a college campus ( or anywhere else for that matter)? They simply won't.

(This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program. The fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.)


  1. Suicide, violence, and accidents are the leading causes of death among young adults because statistically speaking, young adults are health and don't die of anything else.

    They have always been the leading causes of death among this age group, and will always be the leading cause of death among this age group.

  2. Hmm -- it seems that sometimes you claim that gun sales are up and other times you claim that gun sales are down, depending upon the point you are trying to make at the time.

  3. So jdege, I can see that your view is that we should do nothing about young people dying. No seat belts, no air bags, let them have guns, just let them die? No prevention?

  4. When gun sales go down, the NRA gets busy with making sure laws are passed to increase gun sales- see conceal and carry law in Wisconsin.

  5. "So jdege, I can see that your view is that we should do nothing about young people dying."

    No, I'm saying that any meaningful discussion of suicide among young adults would focus on the actual rates, and how the rates are changing. Have suicides gone up? Down? Where? When? Under which circumstances?

    And that when someone ignores actual measures of rates, and instead starts shouting about "leading causes", it's because they are looking to engender an emotional response, rather than a meaningful discussion of the issue.

  6. This is pretty clear to me: " Suicide was the leading cause of death among students ages 18-24 at 157 four-year colleges across the country in the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the study, with a rate of 6.18 per 100,000 students."
    And this: " This chart shows that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds."
    Sorry the links don't work to the CDC website with the charts- suicides among 15-24 yr olds come behind homicides ( mostly with firearms, by the way) and the top cause of death- unintentional- mostly auto accidents. Suicides took the lives of 4298 of 15-24 yr olds in 2009. It was 4140 in 2007. In 2006- 4189. In 2005-4212. There does appear to be an increase in 4 years of data kept by the CDC.
    A leading cause statement is not emotional. It reflects the facts.

  7. How does this have anything to do with legalizing carry of firearms on campus by students? Is there some sort of uptick in suicide associated with college aged adults carrying firearms under a permit to carry on a college campus?

  8. I can't speak for Bryan, but I read your post. Why won't you answer his question? If those of us with carry licenses are allowed to carry on campus, what's the problem? You point out that there aren't many of us in this country, so the numbers shouldn't change much. This isn't only about students. I'm a college instructor with a license.

    By the way, the phrase, "begging the question," does not mean raising the question. Begging the question is the logical fallacy of taking the subject of a debate as true and then using it as proof of itself.

  9. Thanks professor. I believe I said the question was begging to be asked. I didn't say it was "begging the question" as you mistakenly thought I said. I answered the question Bryan asked right in my blog so it wasn't necessary for him to ask it.

  10. What does a college instructor need a gun for on campus? Who are you afraid of gregorycamp? Do you assume that you would necessarily be able to shoot an attacker with a gun? I don't agree with you, as you know. I don't believe anyone but security guards need guns on campus. You have no proof that you NEED your gun there. You WANT your gun there.

  11. "Just ask Colin Goddard and other students who survived the Virginia Tech massacre if a gun would have saved them."

    So, surviving the VT massacre is all you need for expertise in gun handling and use?

    So this VT student can be considered an expert worth listening to.




  12. And of course this professor could have used a gun:

    And we honor heroes: "My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."
    Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter when the man attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio.

  13. "Suicide was the leading cause of death among students ages 18-24 at 157 four-year colleges across the country in the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the study, with a rate of 6.18 per 100,000 students."

    Meanwhile, according to WISQARS, the suicide rate among the general population, for that age group, was 11.7 per 100,000. And at that, suicide was the third leading cause of death, after homicides (16/100k) and accidents (42/100k).

    IOW, college students are far less likely to die accidentally or due to violence or due to suicide than are their non-student peers in the same age range.

  14. And you are absolutely certain that if he had had a gun he could have used it successfully in the surprise and chaos of the moment. I don't agree.

  15. " "If just one person in Norris Hall had a gun to defend himself or his classmates from an armed attacker, lives could have been saved. It is difficult not to think about how I would have felt had I watched in horror as my classmates were gunned down, and me standing there without my gun, helpless. What would it be like to stare down the barrel of the gun when it was aimed at me?" This is one student's opinion. He was not in the room.
    The other is also the opinion of a gun permit holder. The police would not have known him from Cho had he brought out his gun in the situation. That is, of course, my point. You don't have to send me more of these. My views are clearly stated in my blog post. I don't agree with you and you won't convince me. Nor will I convince you. T

  16. jdege, I don't intend to go around and around with you about this. You have had your 2 comments. I offered the stats. They say that a college student has less likelihood of committing suicide than their non college peers. If you read my post, you would have seen that I wrote that that is because guns are not allowed on college campuses. My views are clearly stated. You can stop harassing me about my points. If you don't like them, fine. You can disagree. But what I say is what I say.It's clear what my points are. Just because you don't like them does not mean they are not valid.

  17. "When gun sales go down, the NRA gets busy with making sure laws are passed to increase gun sales- see conceal and carry law in Wisconsin."

    Facts are messy things. It would seem that the biggest push for easements in gun laws came during the Great Obama Gun Rush. Can you point to a period in the past several years that gun sales of dropped, leading to liberalization of gun laws?

    NICS statistics can be found here:


    There hasn't been a drop since 2002 in the number of NICS checks performed. That would tend not to show that NRA "gets busy" in response to sagging guns sales. NRA has been pretty busy since 2002, I think you would agree, and gun sales have been going up the whole time.

  18. http://oregonbusinessreport.com/2010/06/gun-sales-take-surprise-drop/

    " The Securities and Exchange Council (SEC) produced documents illustrating the net sales for the three months ended March 31, 2010 were $94.7 million, a decrease of $26.3 million, or 21.7%, as compared to the three months ended March 31, 2009. Centerfire rifle sales decreased by $24.2 million, or 27.8%, as compared to the prior-year period, primarily due to reduced sales demand for modern sporting products [assault rifles]. Shotgun sales decreased by $1.2 million, or 4.9%, as compared to the prior-year period. Rimfire rifle sales decreased by $1.0 million, or 14.4%, as compared to the prior-year period.

    Although the decline in growth of gun and ammunition sales continues, the industry is thankful that it continues to grow despite the current recession."

  19. Gun sales- http://politicalcorrection.org/blog/201104060019
    and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/gun-conglomerate-pulls-ip_b_844572.html

    and http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_22/b4180021327407.htm

  20. Those are raw dollar numbers, no the number of units. NICS checks are a better proxy for that. Prices were going completely nuts in the post-Obama gun rush. It was crazy enough even I wasn't buying guns and ammo because prices were ridiculous. Economically, it actually kind of forced me out of the market. I'm still not shooting as much as I was 2006-2008.

    So I don't doubt the industry isn't as lucrative now. Tons of companies went into the AR market when people were paying 1500-1600 dollars and are now trying to compete in a flooded market. Yet NICS transactions keep going up.

  21. " This is one student's opinion. He was not in the room.
    The other is also the opinion of a gun permit holder."

    So what, exactly, makes Colin Goddard's opinion better than these two opinions?

  22. Someone who understands what actually happens in a situation like that at Virginia Tech knows that a gun wouldn't have helped. Have you ever been in a mass shooting? Do you know for sure how it would feel and how it would be? Do you know that you would have time to reach for a gun when taken totally by surprise by someone with a gun already blazing? Do you know for sure that once you have been shot once you would be able to take out your gun from wherever it is and be able to shoot the shooter without shooting someone else in the chaos of the split seconds you would have to make that move? Do you know for sure that you wouldn't rather try to get away or try to cover yourself than to be a hero and shoot? Do you know that you would try to get up after Cho made his first shots in that classroom and some lay dying and follow him into the hallway even though you were already injured? Would you know, given that you think a lot of people should be carrying guns on campuses, exactly who the perpetrator is if more than one person had a gun and was shooting? Do you know for sure that you would hit the mark given that even police, who are trained to do this stuff, can't always hit the target? You would know none of this since you were not there. Colin was there. His 911 call let police know exactly where Cho was in the building. Shortly after his call, Cho shot himself as police found where he was.

  23. On my campus, we have nearly 8,000 students. I've only ever seen four or five security officers on a campus that covers many acres. If we get a warning about a shooter on campus, I'll close the blinds and lock the door, but what else can I do without a gun? With a gun, I'd have a better chance.

  24. Shortly after his call, Cho shot himself as police found where he was.

    Odd how that worked as soon as he met resistance he killed himself. do you know for sure that if a person with a ccw had fired back he would not have ended it then?

  25. Do you know for certain that someone with a permit would have necessarily been in those rooms? Do you know for certain that if there was, that person would have been able to get the gun out in the chaos of the moment? Do you know for certain that if they challenged Cho with a gun, they would have gotten off the first shot? Do you know for certain that if the permit holder who was certainly in that room would have hit the mark? Do you know for certain that if you were facing a young man with a semi-automatic pistol with large capacity magazines, you would not be so afraid or surprised that you would be able to shoot?

  26. Dear gregorycamp and Heather- your question has been asked and answered.

  27. Actually...yes. someof us have been in a shooting situation where someone was trying to kill us. The fact we are alive and able to argue with your stupid self proves that having a gun for defense works.

  28. Here is some proof.


    Not to mention all of the returning veterans.

  29. And still, more people are killed every day by people with guns than self defense uses of guns. What about returning veterans?

  30. Guns are tools. Yes, their purpose is to kill. However, guns do not fire themselves.

    "More people are killed every day by people with guns than self defense uses of guns", probably because the simple showing of a weapon was enough to deter the assailant. Are you advocating that every person who is in a life threatening encounter, kill their assailant? That seems a bit harsh if the mugger/rapist/whatever is only armed with a knife.

    As to the returning veterans, Im sure many of them can tell you that when they were in a life threatening situation, they did not attack their assailants with flowers.

    COMMON DECENCY says that you are entitled to you opinions, but NOT entitled to infringe on my rights.

  31. Common decency says that I am not infringing on your rights and that you should stop saying so. It's a lie.

  32. The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    We could argue all day about the term "militia" (whether it means all able-bodied American citizens or something else)...

    However, the second part is very clear.

    the right of the people to keep and BEAR arms. I.E. Carry the "arms" with them wherever they choose to go.

    Gun control, and its advocates, infringe upon my natural rights (as recognized by the Constitution) anytime they enact laws that deny me the ability to keep and/or bear my weapons wherever I go.

  33. Nope you are wrong, K. The Supreme Court did not say anything about the right to carry guns in public. They only dealt with the individual right to bear arms in homes. That is ridiculous. You are using that to trump up fear and paranoia. There are not facts to support it. What are natural rights? From where do they come? Who decides what's natural and what's not?

  34. The Supreme Court doesn't grant us rights, nor does the U. S. Constitution. Both of those recognize some rights that we are born with, and the Constitution specifically states that we have others that are not ennumerated.

  35. So your theory gregorycamp is that you are born with the right to bear arms and carry guns around with you wherever you go.? Sorry, I don't buy it.

  36. You keep asking if we know for CERTAIN if a gun would have helped in the VT situation.

    Yes. I do.

    Because we know for a certain how NOT having a gun turns out when someone is shooting at you....

    If you have time to hide, you have time to prepare a defense.

  37. As for "natural rights", you apparently disagree with the founding documents of this nation. If you do not have rights, you only have privileges granted to you by a government. You do not have any of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, according to you. If one is not a right, none of them are rights.

  38. Nope. I don't agree with your interpretation.

  39. "So your theory gregorycamp is that you are born with the right to bear arms and carry guns around with you wherever you go.? Sorry, I don't buy it."


    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
    - Thomas Jefferson

    "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
    - Alexander Hamilton

    You're aware, of course, that Jefferson and Hamilton stood on very different sides, during the ratification debates and after. Yet they agreed on the nature and origin of our fundamental rights.

    You disagree. Where, then, do you believe that rights originate? If we aren't born with them, when do we get them? Who gives them to us?

  40. Is there anything in there about the right to carry any kind of gun you want anywhere you want? Is there anything in there that says that though everyone is created equally, some should not be able to have guns because it turns out that they can't be trusted with them? Is there anything in there that says felons, domestic abusers, drug abusers, minors, terrorists and adjudicated mentally ill people should have equal access to lethal weapons as the those who are considered to be law abiding?