Why Are Guns So Far Being Held Blameless in Parkland Teen Suicides?

Guns continue to get off the hook in the deaths of two teens who attended Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Even though drug overdose is the method used in 70 percent of potential suicides, it’s only responsible for about 12 percent of the deaths. Guns are far, far more effective. Of the comparatively smaller 6 percent of people who attempt suicide by using a gun, they find “success” about 82 percent of the time. That makes guns responsible for more than half of our country’s suicides.

The role of guns, and access to them, has so far been ignored in the stories about the two teens at Stoneman Douglas. I have yet to find one that asks, let alone answers, the question of where the guns used by the teens came from. But states with the most guns have the most youth suicides.

The four states with the highest youth suicide rates—Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana—also have the highest rates of firearm ownership. Likewise, three of the four states with the lowest rates of youth suicide—New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island—are in the bottom four for levels of gun ownership…

…for each 10-percent increase in household gun ownership in a U.S. state, the youth suicide rate (overall, not just firearm-related) increased by more than 25 percent.

Most of the stories about the two Parkland teen suicides end with tips about warning signs and the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line (Text TALK to 741741). If making this information available saves a life, it’s a good effort. But the sad fact is:

…suicide is often an impulsive decision. One study found that a quarter of people took less than five minutes between deciding to kill themselves and attempting suicide.

Having a gun handy at such a time almost ensures a death will follow. There are few do-overs when it comes to suicide by gun, unlike most other methods.

One of the biggest myths about suicide prevention is the notion that people who don’t succeed at killing themselves will simply find another means until they succeed, says Dr. Matthew Miller, the co-director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

“You’ve got people saying, ‘Oh, if he didn’t shoot himself, he would have jumped off a tall building or found another way to kill himself.’ It’s not illogical, it’s just wrong — wrong in the face of facts that strongly say otherwise,” he says.

According to Catherine Barber, a suicide expert and Miller’s Harvard colleague…[only*] between 5 and 11 percent of people who attempt suicides will go on to kill themselves — but the majority will not.

Unless, that is, they chose a gun as the means to commit the act.


*Added by the post’s author

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