Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Suicide Prevention and Gun Control

The Gun Lobby Is Hindering Suicide Prevention:

In August 2006, my father fatally shot himself with a gun he pilfered from a friend’s bedroom. I wanted to do something positive in my mourning, so I went on a suicide-prevention walk organized by a nonprofit organization called the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Santa Monica, Calif.

I was proud of my efforts and of my association with the group. But that changed on Aug. 10, 2016, when the A.F.S.P. national office announced that it was partnering with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade association, in the name of “education.”
Things got weird right away. After the announcement, the A.F.S.P. staff told the board that volunteers who wanted to talk about the documented higher risk for suicide deaths for those who keep firearms in the home had to keep quiet about gun control. I believe in the broader purpose of advancing suicide prevention, so I complied.

Despite what it claims, the A.F.S.P. doesn’t have a neutral stance on guns. It is still excluding groups like the Brady Campaign from donating and participating in its regional walks. And it is concealing the indisputable fact that firearm ownership is linked to a higher risk of suicide.
According to the most recent information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all suicides are by firearm. Guns account for only 6 percent of all suicide attempts annually in the United States, but they result in death 82.5 percent of the time. They are far more lethal than any other means.
While many choose to write off suicide victims as choosing their own fates, the reality is that many make impulsive choices that turned quickly irrevocable. Their deaths would be preventable with exactly the type of insight that the gun lobby is actively trying to suppress.
None of this is new, as I've written and complained about on this blog for over a decade. You can't begin to seriously discuss suicide prevention without discussing gun control, since over half of suicides involve firearms, and the data has shown for years that availability of a gun increases the chance of a suicide/homicide in a gun owner's house that you don't find in a non-gun owning house. This isn't rocket science, and has been known for decades.

But the NRA and other gun lobbies have worked actively for years to stymie the efforts of this kind of research (mainly via congressional funding cuts), conducted by the CDC and universities. You may ask: what does the Centers for Disease Control have to do with guns and violence? Because guns and violence are public health epidemics, and suicide especially, with more than 46,000 annually, has eclipsed car accidents and the flu as one of the biggest killers in the U.S.

We also know from the literature that availability and access to lethal measures increases suicide. As I've  written for years here, the Golden Gate Bridge is the prime example. Once they figured out a way to put safety nets under the bridge, the hundreds of people who jumped to their deaths annually plummeted to zero. And as this famous article/study notes, in interviews with people who jumped and survived, every single one of them said their last thought as they went over the railing was "oh shit, this was a huge mistake."

Suicide is impulsive, it's often spontaneous, and it's always purposeful. And so if you make it more difficult to jump from bridges (by putting in half-circular fencing to prevent climbing) deaths plummet. When England banned coal gas ovens in favor of natural gas ovens to combat the problem of suicide by asphyxiation in the 1970's, suicides plummeted. Tighter controls on stockpiling pharmaceuticals has led to a decrease in suicides by overdose. And so on.

Again, it's not rocket science. You curb access to guns in this country, you'll lower the suicide rate. And when you increase the availability of guns in this country (as we've done the past decade or so via open-carry laws, etc.) you'll see an increase in suicide. And that's exactly what has happened.

The blood of these victims is on the gun lobby's hands. Hide behind your 2A bullshit all you want, but you own the carnage.

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