I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
Well Newshoggers has closed it's doors so Middle Earth Journal is active once again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gun Death Stats Don't Include Suicide

This is a helluva way to start the day... getting hit in the face by an unexpected fact.
No need to belabor the point. With arguments and discussions about gun violence swirling around, sooner or later this reality will get into the conversation.
I hope...
I was made aware a few minutes ago by a Twitter message, and a quick search tuned up an excellent recent article from the Boston Globe which prints out to about five pages.
This time the gun debate is finally getting the attention it deserves as it relates to mental health issues. When the number of suicides by guns exceeds the number of homicides the conversation is more about gun safety than gun violence. This is especially true when the number of mass killings and gang-related violence, regardless of how tragic they are, are mathematically small by comparison. 
In the public-health community, researchers have widely come to regard it as a basic truth that access to a gun makes it more likely that someone who wants to commit suicide actually manages to do so. A big part of the reason is simply the lethality of guns: Studies show that between 85 and 90 percent of people who shoot themselves die as a result, while the percentage of people who die using other means is vastly lower. Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, points out that guns, unlike other methods, leave people no time to change their minds. They also require less preparation and planning, provided they’re accessible.
“To some people, it’s just totally counterintuitive, because it’s so obvious that if you want to kill yourself, you can always find something else to kill yourself with,” said Barber. “What they assume is that once you’re suicidal, you remain suicidal.” But a preponderance of evidence, including interviews with suicide survivors, indicates that most suicidal acts come during a surprisingly short period during which the person is suffering an acute crisis.
“When you ask people who’ve made attempts and survived,” Miller said, “even attempts that are life threatening and would have proved lethal [without emergency medical care], what they say is, ‘It was an impulsive act, and I’m glad that I’m alive.’”
Headline-grabbing events are more exciting, but the discussion of guns is a more boring discussion about public health and lowering the risk of suicide.
If the reader doesn't already know, be aware that the number of suicides in the military when veterans are included exceeds the number of combat casualties. This is not news.   Again this year more active duty personnel have killed them selves than were killed in action in Afghanistan.
Mark Shields did some interesting homework and found out that more Americans have died by non-combat gunfire than in all the wars in the nation's history.
...since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country's history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II...
His figures do include suicides so it is important to keep the numbers straight whenever the discussion leads to statistics. The time has come to connect a few dots and quit the paranoid discussions of politics and the Second Amendment.
America, we have a bigger problem than that.


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