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The Relationship Between Guns and Suicide

Recent evidence supports a strong relationship between access to guns and suicide: According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of the nearly 39,000 people who reportedly killed themselves in the US last year, did so with a firearm.

A comparison of states with high rates of gun ownership to states with low rates of gun ownership showed that the latter group had similar rates of depression and suicidal thoughts and similar rates of suicide that did not involve guns. The number of people who died by shooting themselves was almost four times greater in states with high rates of gun ownership.

Veterans have also had high incidence of suicide in recent years. The suicide rate in the Army exceeds that of the general US population. Nearly 70 percent of veterans who commit suicide do so with a gun.

Limiting access to guns would help reduce the suicide rate in the US.

Where to Find Help

If you or a loved one experience suicidal thoughts or impulses, access the nearest Emergency Department. If there is an indication of depression, which may include suicidal thoughts, the Zucker Hillside Hospital offers specialized ambulatory programs for children, adolescents, adults and senior citizens. Furthermore, North Shore-LIJ offers programs for veterans and their families in Manhasset and Bay Shore.

This post was written by Victor Fornari, MD, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital, LIJ Medical Center (including Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and Zucker Hillside Hospital).

For more North Shore-LIJ Health Blog posts, go to http://blog.northshorelij.com/ 

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DW August 07, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Unfortunately, the article contradicts its own conclusion. As the article states, regardless of the rate of gun ownership, all states had "similar rates of suicide that did not involve guns;" the difference merely being that in states with a high rate of gun ownership there are more suicides committed with guns. Remove guns from the equation entirely, and then all suicides would necessarily "not involve guns." Since all states currently have similar rates of suicide where guns are not involved, reducing the rate of gun ownership in a given state would simply increase the number of suicides in that state that didn't involve guns (by definition). If it did not, then one would be left with a state of affairs in which some states would have higher rates of suicide than other states even though the rate of suicidal thinking and depression in both sets of states was the same, and even though all of the rest of the vast panoply of suicidal means was available, but with no causal explanation for that difference. The essential flaw in the author's logic (granting the author the benefit of the assumption that he doesn't have ulterior political motives at play) is the implicit assumption that for any given suicide, the sole necessary and sufficient cause of that suicide was the existence of the particular instrument of death used, and that absent that instrument, no suicide would have occurred. That this assumption is demonstrably false ought to be self-evident once the assumption is stated. To put it more practically, once a person has decided to kill her/him self, the way that person will choose whatever means happens to be available, whether that be slashing wrists, hanging, poison, jumping out a window, etc. No doubt many suicidal people have a preferred means of self-dispatch; however, it seems rather unrealistic to assume that most suicidal people have one, and only one, way in which they are willing to kill themselves and that without access to that one means no suicide will result. In short, and not to be too macabre about it, limiting access to guns in the US would not reduce the rate of suicide - certainly not on the basis of this author's premises - but would only change the relative rates at which various means of suicide are used.
John Chalker August 12, 2013 at 08:40 AM
Good thing the railroad system is shrinking ....less suicides by jumping in front of trains!
Tony Patrick August 28, 2013 at 03:10 PM
so lets ban rope, knives, public transportation, and sleeping pills. so nobody can commit suicide.

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