As we saw in a post last week, counterintuitively the most lethal means of committing suicide are those that require the least planning. This fact has big implications for the debate around the most ‘effective’ method of all: guns.
In the US, the UK and most other countries there are far more firearm related suicides than homicides. And what is more it is seems that more guns mean more suicides.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health of all 50 U.S. states reveals a powerful link between rates of firearm ownership and suicides. Based on a survey of American households conducted in 2002, HSPH Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Matthew Miller, Research Associate Deborah Azrael, and colleagues at the School’s Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), found that in states where guns were prevalent—as in Wyoming, where 63 percent of households reported owning guns—rates of suicide were higher. The inverse was also true: where gun ownership was less common, suicide rates were also lower.
The logic underlying this finding is pretty clear: 90% of people who attempt suicide don’t try again. So suicide rates are essentially a product of the number of people who succeed first time. And tragically 85% of those who attempt suicide with guns end their lives relative to just 3% who use drug overdoses. So even if reducing the number of guns in circulation does not prevent a single suicide attempt it could still cut the number of people ending their own lives.