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Nancy Schimelpfening

Half of Gun Deaths Are Suicides

By July 1, 2008

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Research shows that surprisingly often gun deaths are self-inflicted.

In 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicides accounted for 55% of the nation's nearly 31,000 firearm deaths.

In the same year, 40% of deaths were homicides, 3% were accidents and the remaining 2% were "legal killings", such as when police officers do the shooting in the course of duty.

Nor was there anything unique about that particular year. Gun-related have suicides outnumbered firearm homicides and accidents for 20 of the last 25 years, according to CDC statistics.

Last week, opponents of the Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling on gun ownership had used these statistics and others in an attempt to block the ruling, but were unsuccessful.

Comments
July 2, 2008 at 7:52 am
(1) Wendy Aron says:

I believe that people who are truly suicidal are going to find a way to end their lives regardless of whether or not they have a gun, so I don’t think that keeping guns out of the hands of the suicidal will necessarily result in a decrease in suicides. However, the ruling will make it easier for people to get their hands on guns, which cannot be a good thing for violence in this country.

Wendy Aron, author of Hide & Seek: How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness. http://www.wendyaron.com

July 2, 2008 at 7:54 am
(2) Scott says:

I am sorry to see guns being made even more available to (possibly) unstable individuals. The gun lobby advocates fewer restrictions/regulations for the purchase of firearms. I don’t know what people with such a mindset are thinking.
It is turning into the wild west, where everyone is carrying a gun–and the slightest disagreements turn into firefights.

July 2, 2008 at 8:28 am
(3) Marsha says:

Yes, I know. I lost my 20 year old son to a gun five years ago. It has been very hard on me ever since. They say I will never get over it and I probably won’t. I’m against guns. But today, they seem to be everywhere. I live in a city where kids are shooting kids just for the fun of it. Whats wrong with our country?

July 2, 2008 at 9:07 am
(4) Reid Nelson says:

It saddens me that the gun lobby seems to have no morals at all. Handguns have one purpose, to kill other people. And no, hunters don’t use handguns to kill deer.

July 2, 2008 at 9:32 am
(5) John R. Groves says:

I am not qualified to speak professionally about suicide. These comments are simply feelings I have through personal experience or knowing of experiences of others.

It seems suicide fall into two basic categories, predestined or an escape from intolerable personal situations. The predestined seem the most tragic as those so affected simply take their lives unexpectedly and without reason… I know of only a single case where a young boy leaped from an eleven story building, suddenly one day. In all other respects he was quite normal, except for this appalling desire to end his life…

The suicides I am most concerned about are those caused by a person discovering, within themselves, conditions that are so egregious that suicide is the only sanctuary available to them. In my experience the most harmful of those conditions is the self discovery of a sexuality that has been deemed evil. As an individual passes from childhood, through puberty into adulthood, they find out what type of sexual expression will be with them for life.

Sexuality is predetermined, it is never chosen… For the fortunate ones whose sexuality falls into the narrow definitions of “acceptable” such discoveries are more of a benefit than liability. Others less fortunate, find themselves afflicted with sexualities that are not within that narrow range of acceptability and such discoveries are simply injurious.

Depending on the intensity of this sexuality the person, who probably has already lived in reclusiveness, may chose suicide as the final solution. This is unfortunate because within our modern society is a systematic set of laws and policies designed to seek out and eliminate these individuals. With such bias arrayed against them it isn’t surprising that suicide isn’t a strong option.

To simply dwell on the means of suicide and not the causes is an irresponsible attitude. Instead of stronger anti-gun laws, we should instead be opening an approach where those who suffer from mental issues, leading to suicide can find professional, confidential and compassionate help, without fear, shame or guilt.

Hate, bias and fear rule, when it comes to helping those who cannot help themselves. If we continue in this practice, more human beings will die. Is it about time we begin to realize, that we are created human beings, all of which are from the same creator. There must be some rational reason for everyone, yet we have determined some are more worthy of life than others. This must stop.

I propose a national policy where there is an intense outreach to those who suffer mental anguish not of their choosing. A policy that offers sanctuary to replace that ultimate sanctuary of self inflicted death. Is this so difficult or irrational that we as a leading nation cannot adopt?

John R. Groves

July 2, 2008 at 10:19 am
(6) Heather says:

My heart breaks for the people walking among us who every day fight a battle just to live another day. I’ve been down in the dumps, but can not imagine what they go through.

That being said, if someone is going to choose to end their life, they are going to do it with or without a gun. Also, guns can often be an ineffective way to kill yourself compared to many other methods. Not to be graphic but putting a gun to your head may likely end up seriously injuring you, but not actually killing you. The reason why is because people who choose to use a gun for suicide, probably dont also use that gun for sporting purposes, therefore arent very familiar/experienced with it. They pull the trigger, not expecting the kick back, and the gun moves. This leads to brain damage, throat damage, paralysis, but often not death.

Another point to think about is how many people intentionally crash their cars as a method of suicide… or make it look like they fell from a balcony… or “accidentally” overdosed? It is far easier to dicern the intent behind a gun related suicide than most other methods… so how accurate are those statistics really???

Now about the gun law topic… Guns do NOT jump out of their safes, load and unlock themselves, and kill people. People kill people: always have, unfortunately always will. Gun laws differ from state to state but I know that in the majority of places, it is FAR easier to illegaly purchase a gun than it is to get one legally. I know this because I have gone through the process. You have to fill out an application, submit personal references, agree to mental health checks, and have your fingerprints run through the FBI databases. it takes months and months. That being said, I do think that, just like for a drivers license, there should be a course and practical exam required as a part of the process.

Now, if the criminals that are going to potentially break into your home, violate your children’s safety, cause harm to people you care about, etc… if they have easy access to guns, dont you want to just as easily be able to protect yourself??? Chances are, you NEVER have to use it. But in that rare case, owning and being proficient with a gun may be the difference between you and yoru family’s lives and the police and coroner showing up afterwards to do the paperwork. Any cop will tell you, they almost never get there in time. (except on TV)

Look at the states where citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons… what are their crime rates? A LOT lower! If you’re a criminal and want to rob a store but you know theres a high chance half the people in there with you are armed, that will certainly change your thought process.

Better yet, look at the other country’s that REQUIRE every household to have a rifle and that at least 1 people has formal training with the firearm… what are their crime rates? Almost non-existant!

I am not a member of the NRA, and I dont wish this country to turn into the “wild west” all over again. But the fact of the matter is, there is evil in this world. I truly believe every citizen needs to be able to protect themself if that situation unfortunately arises. Relying on the police and government to that is a joke.

Citizens abiding by the laws and going through legal procedures to obtain firearms should be encouraged and facilitated. Guns will always exist… but they need to be in the hands of the right people.

July 2, 2008 at 10:30 am
(7) Mark says:

I wonder what the statistics are on someone using a gun on other people then themselves. Thats whats frightening to me. When I go places where their is alot of people this crosses my mind.

July 2, 2008 at 10:32 am
(8) John Condron says:

Like Scott (2), I am concerned by the government’s failure to restrict access by possibly unstable people to potentially lethal devices and materials. In addition to guns, I recommend that the government control access to motor vehicles (It has been estimated that 5% or more of vehicular fatalities are actually suicides; per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost twice as many people are victims of vehicular homicide each year as by all other forms of homicide combined), plastic bags (which are an important part of one method of suicide recommended in Derek Humphry’s “Final Exit”), and duct tape (anybody who watches Law and Order knows how dangerous that stuff is). I strongly believe that the Nanny State can and should protect us from all hazards.

By the way, am I the only one who finds the reported statistics somewhat improbable? First, I am always suspicious of “statistics,” especially regarding human behavior, that are neatly divisible by five or ten, like 55 or 40. I am also troubled by the fact that these numbers neatly add up to 100 percent, leaving no gun-related fatalities unaccounted for. The determination of suicide depends on a very slippery determination – intent. How, exactly, were these numbers compiled? I cannot believe that there was not a single case where this was “undetermined,” but this is not reflected in these numbers. Why not?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a gun owner, but I believe that access to guns should be restricted, based on training, history of criminality or mental illness, and other legitimate qualifications. But I am opposed to the use of “junk science” to support any position, whether I agree or not.

I agree with John (5), that we should focus on the causes of suicidal behavior, rather than on the method used. I also agree with Wendy (1), who points out that suicidal people will find a way, with or without guns. If we want to reduce suicides, we should aggressively treat depression (up to 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide), and respond proactively to suicide attempts (There are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion, making successful suicide reasonably predictable, and therefore preventable).

Put the focus where it belongs, and spare us the fallacious reasoning, please!

July 2, 2008 at 11:52 am
(9) John R. Groves says:

We all consider ourselves based on others, who we set before us as role models. When it becomes obvious that we don’t meet those standards we begin a destructive process of removing ourselves from our species. Often, when describing someone who has disturbing natures, the observation of reclusiveness (sic)* comes to mind.

This is a natural outcome, mainly because we conceal that which hurts badly. If this concealment is no longer effective or worse yet we are discovered, sometimes suicide is the only answer.

I know it’s difficult to associate with conditions and powers that cause others to contemplate suicide. After all others, even professionals can do this for us. Yet, we could be the first line of helping those if it were possible to overcome the fears linked with it.

Part of this barrier could be mitigated if there was some ideation that helping others isn’t dangerous. If this were true, help would intercede soon enough so that the person seeking help would not have reached a precarious level.

Who would be subject to this compassionate, empathetic intervention? I suspect it would be the person who seems lonely or apparently disenfranchised from the normal functions and joys of life. A person who is sad or highly resistant to sharing…

As individuals or as professional clinics, there must be a stronger message of, “I or we want to listen and be open…” A type of sharing of feelings, where judgment and negative conclusions are absent.

Those who seek self destruction, do so because there isn’t a compassionate hand extended to them, without set conditions (some of which are personal, many of which are legislated rules and policies). We need to author some type of message that convinces those seeking harm to themselves or others that they can be treated with confidentiality, dignity, empathy and understanding, no matter what the issue.

*I made up this term to illustrate a condition where individuals who are troubled and unable to share those troubles establish that type of life style.

July 2, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(10) LIBBY says:

I believe that the ruling was constitutionally correct. Some who have commented so far seem to think that laws can be made to engineer a social outcome. Laws should be viewed achitectonically: they are the railings which keep us (society) from falling into chaos. Sure, you could use railings, bannisters etc. all over your house if you were qbsurdly liability-minded — but what kind of house would that be? Ultimately, a cage!

In years doing emergency room transcription, I have come across many methods of suicide. People are devilishly (using that term advisedly) creative, when the desire is there. Education is a better prevention: for instance, how many angry folks who are attracted by the idea of a glorious big red splat are conditioned to think about the inglorious brown stuff that will happen too? If only there were movies, computer simulations etc. that showed the pathetic realities…including the disastrous effect on innocent bystanders, the value of the family home or whatever.

Believe me, state regulation is not your friend. It’s the banker in your mortgage. You need him, but you also want to use him as little as you can, get him out of there as soon as possible!possible

July 2, 2008 at 2:46 pm
(11) Lynn says:

I hold dear the right to own a gun. You make gun ownership more difficult and only the ones breaking the laws have them. I have had round with depression myself and looked at that gun differrently; but whether or not I had a gun would not have influnced me, if you’ve desided on that path you would find a way. It is their support system and own mind set that will make the differrence. Ultimately, a person is going to do what they decide to do, not what you decide for them.

July 2, 2008 at 7:58 pm
(12) Cat says:

Guns are tools that require a criminal to commit a criminal act. Criminals, by definition, choose not to obey the law. Gun laws only impede the law-abiding CITIZEN (which i prefer to be instead of a subject) and do nothing to hinder criminal activity. If there is a will, there is a way — and if someone unfortunately is determnined to end their life, they will. Consider how many times a firearm saves a life that we don’t even hear about — just like how many times the meds that work wonders for us and the number of times they have harmful side effects that are even deadly for others. My heart goes out to all that have lost loved ones this way but let’s focus on raising awareness of mental health disorders.

July 3, 2008 at 8:03 am
(13) Sandra says:

I don’t think it’s necessarily true that people who decide to kill themselves will find a way, with or without a gun. Of course, there are other methods, but a gun tends to be fast and highly effective. How many people are there out there who attempted suicide, failed or changed their minds partway through, and then got the help they needed to fight their depression? If you lower the chances of failure, if you make it too fast for second thoughts, than fewer people are going to have that possibility of a second chance.

July 5, 2008 at 2:36 am
(14) Margaret Reardon says:

I feel real trapped by my chronic depression at times. I am glad to know that if I really can’t take it someday, I can escape thanks to the availability of hand guns. Few seem willing to consider that some suicides were persons who really needed to get out of their lives. If they chose a gun, they weren’t just screwing around for attention. They achieved what they fully intended.
As far as half of gun deaths being suicides, well I do suppose it’s easier to hit your target when your aiming at yourself rather than at somebody else who may be a moving target. Plus, nobody goes to prison for successfully committing suicide.

July 6, 2008 at 7:35 pm
(15) Alan says:

This topic’s subject referencing the recent Supreme Court ruling had nothing to do with national gun laws, it was a revocation of the District of Columbia’s (illegal) handgun ban within that area only. But to the current manifested topic concerning overall availability of guns to the public and how they contribute to suicide, I have to agree with Heather’s comment, #6.

That said, guns are not up for grabs. They are here to stay, whether banned or not, and for those who don’t use them, or those who ignorantly sidestep the existence of the large group of people who use them for sporting and non-sporting ownership for self-defense, this is still America, not the Hollywood world you live in. If guns mysteriously vanished from citizens possesion (on a national level), there would be more suicides than there are by guns and other means combined, because of the social impact it would have here relating from higher crime and lack of the hobby so many people enjoyed. Not convinced? It just happened.

Handguns were designed to kill, but they have been used for so much more than self-defense. Suicide is much more involved than the average person would want to delve into; it is a tragedy of sorrow that can be understood, but only if we choose to care.

July 7, 2008 at 1:32 pm
(16) Ankineedu Prasad Valluru says:

It is not the weapon that is reason but our state of ego and mind.It is that fear to face reality and that second that loss of control happens.Surely most of them did not want to die, it is their feeling lonely and afraid propels them to press forward into action of indignity.May be they want to punish somebody or something so badly to feel in control again.one does not realize that they won’t be there to see the result in that insanity of their minds.It happened to me.I was and feel strongly am lucky and blessed.In that insane moment when my feelings were overwhelming I was completely powerless and helpless, more over lonely.After life showed me how beutiful life is.Yes, in that moment everybody needs help.Taking needful precautions and actually being aware of family members emotional state will help a lot.I pray to God to reach in time,to avoid such tragedies.

August 18, 2008 at 10:26 pm
(17) Kevin Volz says:

First of all anyone that knows any thing about suicide knows that if a person truly wants to kill them self, they are going to do it one way or another. As a Correctional Officer, in our training we learn that a person that truly wants to kill them self, is going to. That has been the case in most of out successful suicides. The ones that really wanted to commit suicide, waited for the officer to do his rounds and then hung himself. By the time they were found it was too late to save them although we try to. The vast majority of those that we place in observation for “suicidal tendencies” are trying to manipulate something or doing it for attention. It is a very rare occurrence where someone that has been placed in observation actually tries to commit suicide. So if someone actually wants to kill them self, whether they have a gun or not isn’t going to change them killing them self.
As for gun control, only the truly ignorant believe that making guns illegal for law abiding people to own is going to stop gun crime. Yes I believe in people’s right to keep and bear arms but more importantly, I’m a Corrections Officer that deals with criminals on a daily basis. I know a little bit about what I’m talking about when it comes to guns and gun crimes. Criminals don’t care if you pass a law making it illegal to possess a gun. I believe every state has a law prohibiting convicted felons from possessing guns but every day, another convicted felon is caught carrying a gun. Those laws aren’t working very well but now we want to making so law abiding citizens can’t have guns to protect themselves in the belief that we are going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? Just how stupid are these people that they think that criminals breaking laws already are somehow going to obey another one. Criminals are going to commit violence on others now matter what or how. In the correctional setting we have removed all conventional weapons but those that commit violence still find ways to make weapons. They make home made knives. They melt razor blades out of Bic razors into a tooth brush handle. These can make some nasty cuts. I have seen people permanently disfigured from these weapons. How many people think a common bar of soap can be turned into a weapon? Put into a sock and swing it at something like a watermelon and then tell me you want to be hit in the head by that. I’ve seen one prisoner get his head caved in by a 13 inch TV. Maybe we should ban all TVs because they are a ready weapon.
Several other countries have tried banning guns only to have their gun crimes climb even faster. The only place gun crimes have declined in recent history is in the states that have passed Concealed Carry laws for law abiding citizens. Don’t take my word for it. Go look at the FBI’s crime statistics. People that try to say differently are either ignorant or lying. But again, don’t take my word for it, you obviously have a computer, so look it up. The facts don’t lie. Personally, take it from someone who deals with criminals, you want your ability to have a gun to protect yourself with.

December 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm
(18) gd says:

But, you all agree that we live in the most gun deadly country in the world right? Your chances of death by gun is extremely high for a civilized country. We loose thousands of kids every year because of the proliferation of guns. We accept that as a condition of our god given right to have guns available for everyone including deranged people and criminals who have not been covicted of a felony. It has been documented that countries with fewer guns have fewer gun deaths especially children. So whta you are saying is that you don’t give heck about dead kids like the 32 that died in VA tech or the kids dieing in the inner cities or the accidental gun deaths or even the upset teenager who commits suicide with a gun. This year we will have close to 40, 000 gun deaths in the great USA. Over half will be under 23 years old. If you can live with that then I feel sorry for you. We can send people to the moon and do and the seemingly impossible. But, we can’t find a way to keep our kids from being shot to death. How many kids have to die before we decide something must be done. 50K, 75k, 100k children shot dead? When will we say enough is enough? I don’t know what to think. To me you sound incredibly insane. But I have heard it all many times in the past. You are not that unusual. But, I know you care about children. You must understand if everyone have guns then people die, innocent people die, children die. But, we don’t have the will, you don’t have the will so I guess a childs death by gun shot is not that important in the USA.

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