‘Gun Death’ and Suicide: How the Pro-Gun Community is Working to Prevent Suicide in America

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CCRKBA’s Alan Gottlieb spoke to Second Amendment activists at a rally in Olympia. (Photo: The GunMag)

CCRKBA’s Alan Gottlieb spoke to Second Amendment activists at a rally in Olympia. (Photo: The GunMag)

The term “gun death” has proven to be one of the anti-gun movement’s most effective inventions.

No one disputes the frequency of deaths resulting from gunshot wounds. But by describing these tragedies as “gun deaths,” anti-gun lobbies can shift the focus away from the person who pulls the trigger and towards the inanimate object that fires the projectile. The term implies that guns themselves shoulder the responsibility rather than the individuals who use them.

More significantly, “gun death” and “gun violence” allow anti-gunners to conflate the weapon and the user, the individual criminal, and the firearms industry. It blurs the distinction between personal responsibility and the availability of guns in America, giving those who would destroy our Second Amendment rights the opportunity to pursue disarmament under the guise of being “tough on crime.”

But perhaps the most important function of “gun death” is its ability to blur the distinction between homicides and suicides.

Here’s a great example. Hillary Clinton’s gun control platform begins,

While gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities, too many families in America have suffered from gun violence. About 33,000 Americans are killed by guns each year. That is unacceptable. It is a rebuke to this nation we love.

What she doesn’t tell her supporters is that 60% of this “gun violence” is attributable to suicide. The Center for Disease control noted in their 2009 National Vital Statistics report that 59.8% of firearm injury deaths in 2009 were suicide. The PEW Research Center confirmed these numbers in 2010.

But we don’t need to resort to third-party or government sources to verify the 60% mark. One of the largest anti-gun advocacy groups in the country—the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—admits what Hillary fails to mention. The Brady Campaign notes as one of their “key gun violence statistics” that of the 32,514 people who die from “gun violence” every year, 19,992 people kill themselves.

Hillary Clinton is by no means the only one to take advantage of the ambiguity of the 33,000 “gun death” stat. Slate follows suite in this article. You can read it in The Atlantic here. The Huffington Post and Bloomberg.com say the same. It’s a shock statistic, often cited at the beginning of articles and not always clarified at the end. If you’re trying to promote gun control, 33,000 gun deaths is a much more impressive number than the 8,874 murders committed with firearms in 2010 or the roughly 11,500 homicides perpetrated with firearms in 2009.

Suicides, of course, are no less tragic than homicides, and highlighting the above statistics is not meant to downplay the horrific nature of these deaths. Individuals who kill themselves with firearms and the families who must cope with the aftermath face excruciating pain, sorrow, and heartbreak. Suicide is especially prevalent among veterans, an appalling fact considering the risk our vets take to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

But suicides are different from homicides, and the strategies used to reduce the former are different from the strategies used to reduce the latter. This distinction sounds obvious enough, but anti-gunners don’t appear to get it. Anti-gun bloggers, journalists, and activists, it seems, are content to parrot their unhelpful pet statistic as long as it leads to more gun control. They don’t understand that if we want to reduce the number of Americans killed with guns each year, we have to be rigorous and specific. We cannot conflate homicides and suicides and expect one-size-fits-all solutions to have any effect.

Fortunately, while the anti-gun industry is busy blaming guns for “gun deaths,” members of the pro-Second Amendment community are pursuing real solutions to lower the number of firearm-related suicides.

Alan Gottlieb, Founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation, appeared on “Gun Talk Radio” with Tom Gresham recently to discuss Washington State’s House Bill 2793, also known as the “Suicide Awareness and Prevention Education for Safer Homes Act.” According to Gottlieb, the bill brings together members of the firearms and pharmaceutical industries to develop “an educational program for firearms retailers and gun ranges, so we can help identify people that might be at risk of suicide and try to keep lethal means out of their hands.”

“Most of us [in the firearm industry] are experts about guns, but we’re not experts about mental health,” Gottlieb continued. “None of us really know what to look for or the warning signs of people who might commit suicide.” Using a combination of public and private funds, the bill is designed “to help prevent suicide via education, not gun control.”

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Suicide stats for young people.  (Photo: Pinterest)

Washington’s suicide rate is fourteen percent higher than the national average and, according to HB 2793, “one of the most immediate ways to reduce the tragedy of suicide is through suicide awareness and prevention education coupled with safe storage of lethal means commonly used in suicides.”

The bill does just that. While it accomplishes a number of objectives, its primary purpose is to form a task force administered and staffed by the University Of Washington School Of Social Work. This task force will be assigned to develop suicide awareness videos and other educational materials for gun stores and ranges to use on a voluntary basis.

The bill also calls for a “suicide prevention and firearms subcommittee,” which will be comprised of (among other members) one representative from the National Rifle Association, one from the Second Amendment Foundation, and two from the firearms industry. The subcommittee will report to the larger task force and advise on best practices and procedures.

This legislation gives the pro-Second Amendment community a central role in reducing the number of firearm-related suicides in Washington without restricting the constitutional rights of Washington citizens.

“Suicide prevention is not, and should never be, about gun control, but about saving lives and preventing tragedies,” Gottlieb said in a Second Amendment Foundation press release. “Working with State Rep. Tina Orwall and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, along with Brian Judy at the National Rifle Association demonstrates that people with diverse interests can come together and produce something that I think will be good for the citizens of Washington State.”

While the gun industry cannot be held responsible for the actions of individual citizens, it is uniquely positioned to contribute to the reduction of suicides in the United States. Guns, after all, are one of the easiest and most lethal means of committing suicide. In 2010, firearms were used in over half of the 38,364 suicide deaths, and they’re lethal in roughly 85 percent of attempts. These realities, of course, do not call for a restriction on gun rights. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression, substance use, anxiety, and psychosis are the major contributing factors to suicide. Banning guns will not end suicide, but educating gun owners and dealers on warning signs and proper gun storage could reduce the frequency of guns being used in suicide attempts.

It should also be noted that gun-related suicide is, in many ways, an in-house issue. As Tom Gresham observed in the “Gun Talk” segment referenced above, those who commit suicide with guns are generally gun owners themselves. Anti-gunners, by definition, do not own guns. If the gun community wants to remain healthy and growing, it has an obligation to address the issues facing its members. Washington’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention Education for Safer Homes Act is a great step in the right direction, and hopefully other states will enact legislation along similar lines.

Finally, Washington’s House Bill 2793 protects Second Amendment rights from those who would use tragedies like suicide to destroy the gun community in America. Gottlieb described the bill as an “important project… for the future” because it gives anti-gunners less ammunition in the fight for gun rights. As he explained on Gun Talk,

“What’s important to gun owners in this—aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do—is that… the majority of homicides in this country are really suicides, and the anti-gunners love to use the homicide statics to beat us over the head. In Washington State, eighty percent of gun deaths are actually suicide, so if we can lower those numbers, it takes the… arguments away from the anti-gunners when they’re trying to push legislation aiming for our gun rights.”

The pro-gun community in the United States is uniquely positioned to reduce the suicide rate in America, it has an obligation to help protect its members, and reducing the number of suicides will help protect gun rights. These are all important reasons to pursue legislation like HB 2793, but they pale in comparison to the most important reason of all: to prevent the needless loss of human life.

If we want to reduce the number of gun-related deaths in America, we should start with suicide. But that won’t happen if we continue to use ambiguous terminology like “gun deaths,” and it won’t happen by implementing more gun control. Suicide reduction begins with education and resources like those HB 2793 puts in place, and it ends with members of a community caring enough to implement those resources to save the people who need them most.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Jeremiah May 30, 2016, 10:56 am

    I am curious – why would the suicide rate in Washington be 14% higher than the National average?

    Is it because of the weather or some other reason?

  • grifhunter May 29, 2016, 2:01 pm

    Been through two acquaintances who killed themselves with firearms.
    Both were not gun owners prior to their cowardly act. They both bought guns through FFL’s and had background checks just for the purpose of getting the gun for ending their life. If a gun was unavailable, these resourceful men would have had no great difficulty substituting some other grisly way to end their life.
    There is no “gun policy” solution to suicide. None whatsoever.

  • Scott Syverson May 29, 2016, 1:48 pm

    By definition, it is impossible to commit violence towards yourself. Biologically speaking, anger, (and Disgust, too) the emotion everyone is wired with and is the source from which violence flows, is programmed to push back against others who have violated a non-negotiable boundary or are acting as impediment/obstacle to a desired achievement. When guns are used in suicide, it is with neither obstacles or boundary violations response intentions, it is used as a tool to solve a problem. The problem is pain; psychic pain. The source of this physic pain can be varied and wide ranging from natural programmed and DNA encoded systems such as the emotion Loss or from defective DNA coding and improperly functioning brain biochemistry. Guns used in suicides are seen by the users in those instances as anything but threatening. Criminals on the other hand see you, the victim at which the gun is pointed as a means of inflicting pain and injury because you represent an obstacle or have violated a non-negotiable boundary against them. This could be that you are an obstacle to getting the cash in the cash register drawer or the money in your wallet. The gun could be pointed at you because of a boundary violation for no other reason than you’re drive a nice BMW and that’s not fair because your assailant lacks the intelligence, education, skills or temperament to provide the services you provide an employer or clients that permits you to obtain a the income you do. Fairness, in the minds of criminals, is a major justification as a boundary violation for dispensing violence.

    So enter Shrillary, and her anti-gun rhetoric, claiming suicide as gun violence just to skew the numbers to make you think the problem is much bigger than it is. This is a non-sequitur argument from the start. Guns + Violence + Suicide is not biologically possible according to science and our understanding of brain functionality. At the extreme of all corrective emotions (this excludes Joy and Surprise) everyone is DNA programmed for the Fight, Flight or Freeze response when confronted with extreme threats and violence that a gun pointed at you would cause. Tho Fight response to a threatening gun in a moment of suicide contemplation would mean to push it aside. The Flight response would mean a suicide attempt ending in the victim running from a threatening and supposed violent gun, quickly. The Freeze response means nothing happens. You’ve been schooled now to know better than to accept Hillary’s and the anti-guns’ basic tenet of its argument. The above is the medical definition, hence legal definition of violence, it source, and biological function as programmed in everyone’s DNA. I know, I wrote the book on the subject.

    • hey May 30, 2016, 1:16 am

      You are right in some ways but you just do not understand a key variable in sucide. That is THE NECESSARY ELEMENTS THAT ARE CHEMISTRY NEEDS TO FUNCTION PROPERLY. Just like we need air to breath, in order to function properly we need natural sources of B vitamins for our body to make the necessary neuro receptors for serotonin & L dopa. I can not believe you wrote a book on the subject and do not seem to know that in every autopsy revealed there is a big lack of B vitamins found in every sucide case! I used to have severe depression and social anxiety. At least I was smart enough not to become chemically dependent upon a licensed drug dealer. Therfore I began to question why to the people in countries that still have plant food as a major source of diet so happy well rounded and more complex conversations even without the so called education Americans have. I read some books and I instead threw away all processed foods from my diet and then replace it with a diet rich in B vitamins and calcium. 2 years later I am a different person. I doubt if you have been in the parts of the world I have. I have been in both Ukraine and Thailand which have natural non-posioned plant food as the major source of diet. They have far less materials but have a much higher since of well being. America is becoming nutrition depleted posioned chronically ill place. Becoming dependent on this elaborate health care system so convinently created for us as the next generation is fed posioned tainted food that is illegal in other countries. There are many preservatives and substances in the food of America that is completely illegal in the most communist countries. I can go on but want to stay on subject. I am telling you the main point of suicides is our nutrient depleted posioned diet that then leads to the administration of anti depressants. The biotec and big food chain greatly lobbied FDA has more death on their hands than any terrorist organization could even dream of! This just comes down to fraud with no accountability just like the banking industry in 2008 except this time its involving human life! I can not believe we put so much trust in the system. Here are some facts in my other post you and the gun industry should read.
      The biotect and big food chain lobbied FDA allowing anti-depressents on the market is the biggest cause of sucide in America. Like every drug in the world the body becomes chemically dependent on it and need to take more until you can not take enough. Then the person is worse off than they started. At one point I heard we lost more soldiers to suicide in Iraq than the so called enemy, this made it to the news. What the news didn’t say as a result of soliders of being prescribed anti-depressants for post tramadic stress syndrome more soldiers are commiting sucide than evey before. We can not forget about the mass shooters since 2012 which are linked to the use of phychactric drugs. According to our culture drugs is the answer instead just eating natural food with b vitamins that our brains need to make serotonin & L-dopa receptors and eating sugary or processed foods that deplete the body of B vitamins. America is it own worst enemy with the global elite owned government and media that just wants to capitalize off its citizens while we are too lazy to research anything out for ourselves, being distracted while staying off the main source of the problems.

  • hey May 28, 2016, 12:07 am

    The biotect and big food chain lobbied FDA allowing anti-depressents on the market is the biggest cause of sucide in America. Like every drug in the world the body becomes chemically dependent on it and need to take more until you can not take enough. Then the person is worse off than they started. At one point I heard we lost more soldiers to suicide in Iraq than the so called enemy, this made it to the news. What the news didn’t say as a result of soliders of being prescribed anti-depressants for post tramadic stress syndrome more soldiers are commiting sucide than evey before. We can not forget about the mass shooters since 2012 which are linked to the use of phychactric drugs. According to our culture drugs is the answer instead just eating natural food with b vitamins that our brains need to make serotonin & L-dopa receptors and eating sugary or processed foods that deplete the body of B vitamins. America is it own worst enemy with the global elite owned government and media that just wants to capitalize off its citizens while we are too lazy to research anything out for ourselves, being distracted while staying off the main source of the problems.

  • Kalashnikov Dude May 27, 2016, 3:53 pm

    No. This is ridiculous. Gun dealers don’t have to stand in their businesses and discuss suicide with their customers to protect our 2nd Amendment. Any more than automobile dealers have conversations and brochures discussing driving head on into oncoming traffic. Or Rosie O’Donnell killing herself with corn dogs and mayo. This is bullshit and I ain’t having it. I am dead serious. If I walk into my local gunstore and they pull this bullshit on me, I will turn around and walk right the fuck out. I’ll get my guns on Back Page, and Facebook where the prices are better, and the conversation is nil.

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