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Easy Access to Firearms Increases Suicides

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Suicide by gun is on the rise in the United States. From 2010 to 2020, the number of gun suicides increased by 25%.

Suicide attempts that involve the use of guns are by far the most lethal – about 85% of gun suicide attempts result in death. By comparison, drug overdose – the most common form of suicide attempt – is fatal in less than 3% of instances.

One thing that most people are unaware of is that suicide attempts are often done on impulse. In many cases, they are accompanied by the use of alcohol or drugs. Those that survive a gun suicide attempt usually say they do not want to die after they survive. They realize too late that they really want to live.

Depending on the damage they did, surgery may be able to fix their physical injuries. Most of the time, however, their physical and emotional scars are obvious and permanent. The damage to their mental health and those who love them will likely never heal.

Imagine a person blowing a good part of their face away and then surviving. Imagine the people that find them soon after. Imagine trying to get someone in your family, now barely recognizable and covered in blood, emergency medical help. The images of that day will be forever etched in memory. It has got to take a toll on all those involved.

Now think of the additional psychological effects on the loved ones of the suicide victim. The strong feeling that if they would have done something different, the victim would still be alive or not hurt. To merely say the negative effects are profound on a very personal level is the grossest understatement. Suicide devastates all who are unlucky enough to be anywhere near one.

A recent study by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) explored the relationship between gun suicides and gun laws in different states. They found that more than twice as many gun suicides occurred in states with the fewest gun laws, compared to states with the most gun laws.

Easy access to guns is a major factor in suicide gun deaths. Suicide is often an impulsive act. It is often facilitated by alcohol or drugs. Stronger gun violence prevention laws, especially ones that mandate longer waiting periods before being able to purchase a gun, are very likely to reduce the frequency of deaths by gun suicide.

Gun violence prevention laws are currently being introduced in the Michigan legislature. Please urge your state senator and representative to vote for these important measures. Lives are at stake.

Kenneth J. Orlich, St. Joseph


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