I would call this a “Can’t happen to me” story.
People own guns for several reasons. Some people are collectors. Some are hunters. Some are target shooters.
But one big reason is personal safety. Many people are convinced that their easy access to, and liberal carry of, guns makes them safer.
They feel that if they have a gun in their home or can carry it in the street, they will be able to protect themselves.
In this, they are correct. A gun is a potent, self-protection device.
However, they don’t seem to understand, or they do understand but deny two things:
1. If they have easy access to guns, then everyone else has easy access to guns, and having everyone else own and carry guns is a danger their own gun ownership doesn’t solve.
In a way, it’s like driving. We post speed limits, and we arrest people for exceeding those limits.
There are many roads posted for 60 mph that I would love to drive at 85 mph. I feel I’m a good enough driver to do it safely.
But I don’t because I don’t want to get stopped by a cop. And I don’t object to the posting because I don’t want every damn fool driver to zoom past me going 85 mph on that road.
Yes, there are plenty of damn fool drivers who break the law. Sometimes I do it myself. Still don’t object to the speed limit because I am convinced that, despite all the law-breakers, speed limits save lives.
2. And this is the second thing gun owners deny, the “It can’t happen to me” part:
Family Gun Culture May Play a Role in Teens’ Risk of Firearm Suicide
— Clinicians need to start conversations about gun access, researcher urges
by Kristen Monaco, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today, May 22, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO — Many teens who died by firearm suicide grew up in gun-owning families, according to a small psychological autopsy study.
Interviews with family members of nine teens who died by firearm suicide showed that 89% of decedents had prior family engagement with firearms or the family considered itself to be engaged in firearm culture, said Paul Nestadt, MD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic in Baltimore.
Keep in mind this was an exceedingly small study, so statistics related to this study have little meaning.
“Interventions must acknowledge culturally embedded routes of identity formation while re-scripting firearms from expressions of family cohesion to instruments that may undermine that cohesion — and might cost the life of their child,” Nestadt said during a press conference at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting.
Suicide death rates have been steadily climbing since 2000, Nestadt explained, and now account for the second most common cause of death among youth.
“It’s a big problem,” Nestadt said. “And when we’re talking about suicide, it’s hard not to talk about firearm suicide.”
“One of the reasons so many suicides are by firearm … is that firearm attempts are much more lethal,” he added.
According to CDC data, firearms are the most common method used in suicide; they were used in 55% of suicides in 2021.
Of suicide attempts that involved a firearm, 90% resulted in a fatality.
For reference, Nestadt said only about 8% of all suicide attempts result in death. “That’s why having a firearm is such an important risk factor for completed suicide,” he said. In addition, most firearm deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
Three distinct themes emerged from the qualitative interviews. The first was firearm culture’s prevalence among families of youth who died by firearm suicide.
“[He] used to love shooting with his dad. That was something that they did together. It was a big connection point for them,” one person said during the interview.
Firearm culture tended to play an integral role in how these families identified themselves and were part of family traditions, Nestadt explained.
The second theme that emerged — and the most clinically relevant, according to Nestadt — was the perspective on firearm risk. Many family members tended to be unaware of the potential danger that access to firearms posed for youth at risk for suicide, and few locked up household guns.
Most families said they would have removed guns from the house if it had been suggested.
“If [the hospital] had recommended it, we would’ve agreed and removed the gun from the house. But I wasn’t worried, though — it wasn’t even a thought,” said one family member.
“I know these are politically valent topics of the time, but as healthcare providers, we ask about their sex life, rashes, all kinds of sensitive things, religion,” he said. “It’s important that we’re able to really do that.”
“I will point out for any healthcare provider that it’s never illegal to ask about gun access. It’s medically relevant to saving your patient’s life,” Nestadt added.
“Pediatricians: remember, this is the second leading cause of death,” he said. “It’s important to screen for all these things that can hurt your kid, but the most likely thing that will result in your child patient dying will be suicide. The number one is accidental death.”
This theme was closely entangled with the third theme that emerged from interviews, which involved risk mitigation strategies.
Calling this “truly a courageous study,” session moderator Howard Liu, MD, MBA, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, praised the research for bringing up such an “important, timely public health discussion.”
“Of course, we’re all facing this challenge of how do we reduce suicide in all ages … and I think this is a really vital discussion and such an important clue about access, and just trying to reduce access in the moment of impulsivity and a moment of grief.“
Those last few words are important. Young people tend to be impulsive. Children look for a way to end their pain when things go badly or even seem to go badly.
Fear, embarrassment, rejection, and failure, all are magnified in the young mind, and if there is a gun in the house, death might seem like a preference or a solution rather than a danger.
If you gun owners learn that your child has been driving too fast and has received tickets, you might take his car keys away. But kids generally don’t try to commit suicide by driving, and if they do make an attempt, they likely will survive it.
Bullets are much less survivable.
The bottom line is, easy access to guns might make you feel safer, but that safety is an illusion. And yes, laws cannot 100% prevent criminals from accessing guns, just as laws cannot 100% prevent speeding, dealing drugs, or committing burglaries.
But we have laws for a reason. Laws help prevent bad acts and bad outcomes.
When we had laws restricting gun ownership, we had fewer gun deaths. Laws work. We should try them again.
Of course, a gun accident or suicide can’t happen in your house, can it?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The Sole Purpose of Government Is to Improve and Protect the Lives of the People.