What’s The Difference Between Homicide & Suicide? Where You Point The Gun.

Our friends at The Trace have just published an article on guns and suicides which shows that states with high per-capita gun ownership also tend to have higher-than-average suicides committed with guns.  Roughly one out of two successful suicides involve a gun, and it is the only type of suicide plan that rarely, if ever, fails.  So having access to a gun when something as impulsive as suicide is involved, becomes a very dangerous state of affairs.

suicide           The idea of a link between gun ownership and suicide is not new.  In fact, two of the true gun-violence research pioneers, Art Kellerman and Frederick Rivara, published research on this point in 1992, for which the NRA did not give them an award at their annual meeting that year or any other year.  In fact, it was this research among other efforts that was cited by the NRA as ‘proof’ that CDC-funded gun research was nothing more than anti-gun advocacy masquerading as science and led to the defunding of said research.

I happen to think that perhaps we should start taking the NRA and its various mouthpieces at their word and suggest that perhaps the medical community should forego any further treatment of NRA members altogether.  I mean, what the hell.  Since they have decided that getting your head shot off isn’t a medical ‘problem,’ obviously no other injury that a person might suffer should qualify as a medical problem either, right?

Now obviously I’m being a bit sarcastic here to make a point, which is that gun violence is gun violence whether you point the gun at yourself or at anyone else.  The difference, and it’s the only difference, is that it’s a lot easier to shoot yourself than to shoot anyone else, particularly if the ‘anyone else’ happens to be moving around.  And the fact that the official line from Gun-nut Nation is that suicide and guns have nothing whatsoever to do with each other only tells you how far from reality that bunch has strayed.  So let’s get back to reality.

Here’s reality: In 2014, the national gun-suicide rate (per 100,000) was 6.34.  The rate for Whites was 8.3, for Blacks it was 2.75.  Where do all these White suicide victims live?  In small towns particularly in Western states.  This is what the Kerry Shaw says in The Trace, this is what everyone says. And while a state like Montana has a gun-suicide rate seven times higher than New York State, comparing suicide rates at the state level can sometimes obscure as much as it explains. For example, Essex County, which is the far Northern chunk of the Adirondacks, has a gun-suicide rate of more than 10, which isn’t up to Montana but it’s not far behind.  The difference is that New York’s statewide population is overwhelmingly urban and suicides, particularly older suicides, tend to take place in small, rural towns, no matter where they are located.

It should also be mentioned that as the suicide-prone population ages, the use of a gun becomes more frequent.  The rate of gun-suicide for White victims above the age of 60 is 13.36, which is 60% higher than the rate for all White suicide deaths.  On the other hand, the gun-suicide rate for Blacks who are 60 and up is the same as the overall gun-suicide rate for African-Americans. Why is it that Blacks seem so resistant to suicide, in particular gun-suicide, whereas suicide and gun-suicide rates for Whites are three times higher and keep going up?  We have absolutely no idea, and it’s an issue which never seems to get discussed within the GVP community.

It should be discussed because it certainly wouldn’t hurt to figure out why gun violence seems to be endemic to certain population groups whereas other groups appear to be resistant to the gun-violence scourge.  After all, it’s not as if there is anyone in this great land of ours who can’t easily and readily put their hands on a gun.

5 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between Homicide & Suicide? Where You Point The Gun.

  1. About a year ago, Charles Blow wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times saying that about 80% of white gun deaths are suicides and about 80% of black gun deaths are homicides, so we really are looking at two different problems (duh…).

    The 10/3/2014 Huffington Post issue has a nice graph of suicide rate vs. unemployment rate starting at 1979 and the two curves pretty much map which is no surprise. I hypothesize that the white folks are blowing their brains out in large numbers during economic downturns because of higher expectations but it really would be nice to see the graph broken down by race and gender. Likewise, I think the black homicide problem is pretty easy to figure out when you look at the sociology of places like S. Chicago and Baltimore, etc. Papachristos has done that.

    Certainly if you have a gun and a grudge, either at your rival gang member or your own skull, there is a certain probability that you will use Maslow’s Gun to solve the problem.

  2. Mike, one final personal experience. I spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks and Southern Tier when I still lived in New York State. Great deer hunting areas, in my case. But I also saw those areas depopulate of their traditional people and occupations such as small dairy farms. I wonder if a certain amount of the rural suicide problem is a combination of people getting old and people feeling irrelevant. My brother in law, a large animal vet in the Adirondacks, sometimes commented to me about the demise of the family farm. There is also the demise of the family cheese factory, small business, etc. What is left to do other than check out?

  3. It’s an interesting concept that proffers that one can commit violence against oneself. It shows the true depth of the gun control argument that said lobby has to use those numbers to pad the scaremongering. Suicides by firearm are higher when the self inflicted victim has a firearm? Say it isn’t so! Tree detective work there.

    It should be discussed because it certainly wouldn’t hurt to figure out why gun violence seems to be endemic to certain population groups whereas other groups appear to be resistant to the gun-violence scourge.

    Agreed, but it’s certainly going to make some demographics uncomfortable….

  4. Not all suicides have one victim. What about murder suicide? Many of the mass shootings end up as either the shooter killing themselves or putting themselves in a situation that they are killed. Many suicides are murder suicides, specially domestic violence that ends up as murder and then suicide. One of my family members was a victim of this. This is a totally different category that needs to be studied.

    • Need numbers. With twice as many suicides as homicides, and with many homicides in inner cities, that takes a lot of numbers off the table. Still, I agree it would be nice to have numbers.

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