Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gun Ownership and Gun Suicides

I love violent video games. Blowing things up and shooting everything in sight with guns of all sorts - ah, great release of frustration and escape from reality. I have no moral objection against owning a gun - they have several legitimate uses, such as overthrowing governments, killing "game", and committing suicide. Natural selection at its best. Several of my friends and relatives own guns and that's perfectly okay with me. Owning a gun dramatically increases the likelihood of accidental or intentional death via gunshot wound.

We've all heard countless horror stories of little Johnnie getting daddy's gun and blowing little Jack's brains out. These stories are quite rare in the grand scheme of gun ownership, but I'm all for mandating guns to be more difficult to fire - childproof safeties, a simple trigger key lock, or RFID technology - to counterbalance the irresponsible gun owner. This would prevent many gun-related deaths, but it wouldn't prevent my main reason for personally not owning a gun: suicide.

Many studies have shown that all gun owners are at a much higher risk of homicide; a well-cited Harvard study found that "in areas where household firearm ownership rates were higher, a disproportionately large number of people died from homicide." 56% of all gun deaths in the US were suicides (source). The key statistic is that nearly 60% of all suicides in general are carried out with a gun (source, source). That is a staggering statistic, especially when pitted against the percentage of individuals who actually own a gun: only 25%, according to a US government study, and that rate is allegedly declining. Both of these statistics are taken from the general national population from the same time frame without bias; they are both representing the same sample. Simply having access to a gun significantly increases the likelihood that you will commit suicide; it provides easy, lethal means in impulsive suicidal moments.

So what am I advocating here? On a national level, mandating trigger locks is a must. I'm not saying that we should have laws that prevent gun ownership, making owning guns any more difficult than it is, or restricting who should own guns - all of which have strengths and weaknesses. I'm simply stating that owning a gun dramatically increases the likelihood that you'll commit suicide. Unless you're a hunter, owning a gun does nothing except provide a pseudo warm fuzzy blanket of security and an easy, lazy, impulsive means for suicide.

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