rev. 5/2/03


Of several studies before the early 90s about the relationship between gun presence and suicide, most concluded that there was no perceptible relationship although some concluded that there is a relationship with suicide using guns.  Another study, in Canada, showed that, when gun possession rates were drastically reduced as a result of new (1976) handgun restrictions, the reduction in the rate at which people killed themselves with guns was totally offset by additional people killing themselves in other ways—mostly jumping from high places.

What this means is that most suicides using guns cannot be blamed on (attributed to) guns.  Only some small portion of suicides might be prevented by unavailability of guns.  Children and disturbed people with mental health problems should certainly not be allowed unsupervised access to guns.

Naíve people can't understand other people wanting to kill themselves, and would prefer to blame guns rather than people.  The naíve also want to think that everyone can be saved from themselves since the selves are not to blame (or "responsible").  But, people who are having a very hard time in life and decide to commit suicide can and do find any number of effective ways to do it.

People who want to save them all say that most of them don't really want to kill themselves.  But, those who don't typically choose methods that aren't as certain as others (pills or slashed wrists, for example).

Gun control advocates say that people often survive attempts with methods other than guns, but that attempts with guns are successful in over half the cases.  This is true.  However, they don't acknowledge that people trying other methods may survive multiple attempts without anyone knowing (or entervening) until they are finally successful if they really want to kill themselves.

But blaming guns is easier than paying attention to our children and associates, trying to entervene when we see that someone is having problems, and trying to do something about problems like poverty and substance abuse. It's an easy way to make ourselves feel good about ourselves even if it doesn't do anything about the real problems.

In the nineties, doctors trying to prove how bad guns are for our society performed and reported on several studies trying to show how guns cause suicides.  They have ignored the existing research on the relationships and have reported their studies only in their own biased new england journal of medicine (nejm).  More importantly, however, the studies have just not been valid.  Unfortunately, gun control advocates in and out of the media have used these faulty studies to great advantage, and the literature has turned a duped medical community into gun control advocates.

In 1990 Kellermann and his associates published in nejm volume 322 a report on a simplistic study in which they compared the incidence of suicide from 1985 through 1987 in King County, Washington (Seattle area) with that in the Vancouver, British Columbia metro area (where firearms are much more regulated).  They ignored population race and health care system differences in the two areas.  They found that the suicide rates were almost the same in the two areas, and that the increased use of guns for suicide in the Washington area was offset by use of other methods in Vancouver.

But, not being satisfied with results they didn't like, they noted that Washington residents 15 to 24 years old had a moderately higher rate than the same age group in the Vancouver area.  Looking closely at the results, however, reveals that the lower 95 percent confidence limit of their ratio was just 1.02, which is practically 1.00.  What this means is that the "difference" they reported was so small for the size of their sample that it could easily have been entirely a result of sampling error.

They concluded that "restricting access to handguns might be expected to reduce the suicide rate in persons 15 to 24 years old, but that it probably would not reduce the overall suicide rate."  You can bet that "might" is not included in any later references to the study.

Unsupervised handgun access by minors should obviously be restricted, but these gun control advocates (and all the rest) propose just restricting access (in general, by everyone) instead of restricting access to those for which laws already prohibit unsupervised access.

Unsatisfied with the results of this study, they went on to do the suicide study published in '92.