While the talk of guns and gun control has stubbornly managed to linger on, the persistence of injuries and fatalities by guns has had no such difficulty, as has been documented for a couple of weeks here.
And while this conversation goes on, I am infuriated with a deep-seated misconception that enjoys widespread support, even here. They will find a way. Many of the gun deaths in this country are suicides; more than half of them are committed using guns. Because it's suicide, however, gun enthusiasts often claim that these don't count, somehow. Because it's inevitable. As if this urge is unstoppable. Guns must be blameless.
They're not blameless. They're a risk factor.
A few days ago, one of the local newspapers brought up the story of one such suicide, a lady who suffered from and struggled with mental illness for years before finally making a successful attempt to kill herself.
Terry Stadler tears up as he talks about his daughter's 12-year battle with mental illness. She fought it with everything she had, he says. With repeated hospitalizations, with medication and an electrical implant designed to help with her deep depression. With crisis counseling and years of work with psychiatrists. She fought hard, her father says, right up until that day in May 2009 when the Phoenix Police Department handed her a loaded gun. Fifteen hours later, Kristi Lee Stadler was dead.Wait, what? Handed her a loaded gun? That's ridiculous. Well, it is, except that it's the law here, and ridiculous law is not a contradiction in terms, especially when it's about guns. This came after she bought the gun, no problems there...
Things were good through Christmas that year, then her illness hit hard. By early February, the child's father had taken away their daughter, apparently fearing for her safety, and Kristi bought herself a .38. Despite her mental illness, she was legally able to buy the gun because she had always cooperated with her treatment and, thus, had never been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital by a judge.That's the standard here, apparently. Not mental illness, not a documented history of suicide attempts. Involuntary commitment. Nothing less will do. And so, even though this lady spent a week in a mental hospital after her first threat to shoot herself, it must not have come at a judge's order. The police did their 'due diligence' and that was that. They weren't required to consider her mental health history or the reason they'd took it in the first place, didn't even call her psychiatrist about it. Perhaps the NRA with Republican assistance has passed a law requiring them to not consider it.
Instead, police did the requisite "Brady check," verifying that Kristi had never been ordered by a judge into treatment, and proceeded to track her down to let her know she could come get her gun.But the police followed the law, state and federal law, and they were obliged to give it back, and the courts dismissed a lawsuit against them on those grounds.
And yet it's clear that many people either don't understand, or refuse to get it, that guns actually do make a bad situation worse. They will find a way. Nearly every time the topic comes up, guns and the deaths they cause, there will be a diversion to suicide and a dismissal of it as inevitable. Apparently it happens enough that it's been studied.
13. The public does not understand the importance of method availability.
Over 2,700 respondents to a national random-digit-dial telephone survey were asked to estimate how many of the more than 1,000 people who had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge would have gone on to commit suicide some other way if an effective suicide barrier had been installed. Over 1/3 of respondents estimated that none of the suicides could have been prevented. Respondents most likely to believe that no one could have been saved were cigarette smokers and gun owners.
Seriously. Gun owners. Coincidence I'm sure!
Incidentally the Harvard School of Public Health article also mentions several studies supporting the theory that more guns = more suicide. But it makes me wonder why suicide prevention is attempted at all, what with the prevalence of this argument of inevitability. Perhaps because in reality, it's not that inevitable.
Some suicide methods have higher rates of failure than others; e.g. wrist-slashing has a much higher failure rate than use of firearms, which has only a 10% failure rate. 75% of all suicide attempts are by the use of drugs, a method that is often thwarted by using nonlethal drugs or nonlethal dosages. These people are found alive 97% of the time. About one-third of people who attempt suicide will repeat the attempt within 1 year, and about 10% of those who threaten or attempt suicide eventually do kill themselves.This same article cites a figure of 300,000 Americans a year who survive a suicide attempt. But the actual number of suicides is down around 38,000. That's such an obvious discrepancy. If suicide is inevitable and people will find a way, why isn't it much higher? After all, those who tried and failed must try again until they succeed, it is unstoppable!
Still, I note the problem pointed out by those statistics -- a lot of people may try using drugs, but guns, well, they work. It could be because killing is their business. If someone has the impulse to commit suicide and a gun is available, chances are it's all over.
And yet, they will find a way. Right? Is this how we handle disease in this country? Do we just write off heart disease, cancer...erectile dysfunction? Feh! I think not. Suicide is not an inevitability. In many cases, this is depression; depression is treatable.
Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.Clearly it's not a death sentence. The data do not support this. These statistics show that not everyone responds well to treatment, I understand this, but let's not pretend that it's always inevitable, eh? But when reviewing the risk factors, guns come up.
Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year, or more than 24 million people.
More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (17 million), cancer (12 million) and HIV/AIDS (1 million).
About 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.
What are the risk factors for suicide?A risk factor. Like how high blood pressure or cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:
depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.2
prior suicide attempt
family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
family history of suicide
family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
firearms in the home,3 the method used in more than half of suicides
exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.2
This is not a question of gun owners being more prone to suicide. The articles linked here that I've read state it outright, they're not liable to have more mental health problems or to commit suicide. Often, someone other than the gun owner ends up using it for suicide. Kids, of course; they find their parents' gun, or some other family member. There's a growing problem of suicide amongst veterans, which the military is trying to take on, in spite of the NRA's opposition, something I've written about before. This is a pertinent quote from my earlier diary.
Half of troops that killed themselves use firearms to end their life and “suicide in most cases is a spontaneous event” that is often fueled by drugs and alcohol. But “if you can separate the individual from the weapon,” he added, “you can lower the incidences of suicide.”This seems so bloody obvious that it makes me want to slap someone when I see they will find a way. I'd like to think, however, that I am not a violent sort. Besides, I'd wear out my hands. So instead, I write this piece in support of what seems obvious to me, but clearly is not.
The alternative conclusion to draw from this...argument from inevitability...would be that people know better and say it anyway, to protect against gun control. I may be a pessimist, but I'd prefer not to believe that.