America’s real gun problem is suicide

Anti-2nd Amendment types like to throw around shocking statistics about the number of firearm related deaths in America as evidence of the need for more draconian gun restrictions. But because their efforts are more anti-gun than anti-tragedy, they often leave out some important details.

Despite media saturation about mass shootings in recent years and an effort to demonize black rifles, the number of firearm homicides in America hasn’t changed much since the Clinton administration’s assault weapons ban was lifted.

And while firearms remain the weapon used most in the commission of homicide in America, firearm homicides are not the top contributor to gun-related death tolls.

Most people killed by firearms in America aren’t the victims of lunatics or criminals—but fall victim to another more sinister set of bad actors. Depression, despair and the belief that they have no reason to continue living led 291,571 Americans to take their own lives using a firearm between 1999 and 2014.

That accounts for nearly 59 percent of total gun deaths for the time period.

Yet, we don’t often hear about the poor souls who take their own lives with firearms in the media or the anti-gun left. And there’s a good reason. If your goal is scaring people throughout the country into supporting the termination of 2nd Amendment rights, focusing on the terror of relatively rare mass shootings is a far more effective propaganda tool.

But if anti-gun groups were sincere, suicide-by-gun would be the first thing they discussed in any argument about gun control.

Of course, then the argument wouldn’t be about control. At risk of being overly macabre, it’s worth noting that they wouldn’t have much of a point in talking about the dangers of 30 round magazines and semiautomatic weapons if preventing loss of life by firearm were the true goal.

Even the Brady folks admit:

Despite suicide being the leading cause of firearm-related death in the United States, the subject has been largely absent from the national conversation on gun violence.

This is hardly surprising given that high-profile tragedies like mass killings and school shootings tend to fuel public perceptions of gun violence. However, if we want to dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by guns, we need to put as much focus on preventing firearm suicides as we do on firearm homicides.

Fortunately, 2nd Amendment supporters are already focused on the true causes of the majority of gun tragedies in America and are making efforts to prevent loss of life a top priority.

A good example is the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s recent collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to develop a program to reach out to gun owners who may be at risk of suicide.

Working together on an effort called Project 25, the groups hope to reduce the number of suicides in the U.S. by 20 percent over the next decade.

“With suicide accounting for nearly two-thirds of all firearm fatalities annually, the topic of suicide prevention deserves our attention. In recent years NSSF has worked with the Veterans Administration, the State of Utah and mental health agencies to help educate gun owners and the public on how to keep firearms safely out of reach of those who, during a period of despair, decide to do themselves harm,” the NSSF said in a statement. “Now is an appropriate time to broaden our efforts.”

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