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Suicide and Guns

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Guns and Suicide: New York Times

“The gun debate has focused on mass shootings and assault weapons since the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., but far more Americans die by turning guns on themselves. Nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in the United States in 2010 were suicides, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national suicide rate has climbed by 12 percent since 2003, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teenagers.

Guns are particularly lethal. Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.”

60 percent of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides. A surprising number of suicides involve people who have never or were not in recent contact with a mental health provider. So any policy that relies heavily on that intervention will miss a lot of the problem.  A key solution, the New York Times said, is to put space between the suicidal person and a way for them to take their life. If the person has to work harder to find a way to die, they will be a lot more likely not to do it.

A March 2013 New York Times said:

“While background checks might turn up people with severe mental illness who have been prone to violence, gun suicides are often committed by people whose history doesn’t suggest a serious problem. In studies, a quarter to a third of those who killed themselves were not in contact with a psychiatrist at the time of death, and the majority were not on psychiatric medicines. “The first time the family may know of the distress is when they kill themselves,” said Dr. David Gunnell, a suicide epidemiologist at the University of Bristol in England. There may be no red flags and little forethought. To carry out a campus killing rampage, perpetrators collect weapons, identify victims and select locations. In contrast, suicides are often solitary, impulsive acts, experts say.”

“That is why a cornerstone of suicide prevention is simple: ‘restricting access to common and particularly lethal means for everyone — we know that’s effective,’ said Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness and Voices of Education), a national suicide prevention group.”

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