It takes a real creep to use suicides to pump up the numbers.
The Coalition to Blame Everything on Guns (C-BEG)published an article last month. It was breathlessly entitled “The Truth About Gun Violence: Three Facts You Need to Know.”
The lurid subhead reads, “Sixty-seven people die by firearm suicide daily — more than the deadliest mass shooting in American history happening every single day.”
That’s mostly true; the actual figure is closer to 66.937, but 67 works.
Pretty horrifying, right?
But wait a minute! How many people kill themselves every day by some other means?
66. Or 65.512, if you prefer. That’s also more than the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Every single day.
In 2018, 38 people suffocated themselves every day. That’s more than any mass shooting except Las Vegas. Every single day.
Robin Williams died this way; so did Kate Spade. Perhaps C-BEG would have been more interested if they had used guns?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Fatal Injury Report said that 48,334 Americans ended their own lives last year. 24,432 used a firearm of some sort; 23,912 found another way. The difference between the two is 520.
In 2014 and 2015, more people killed themselves by other means than used a gun.
Here’s something else the C-BEG didn’t mention: Over the past 20 years, the percentage of suicides involving a gun has dropped more than 11%. Over the same period, the percentage of suicides by suffocation, most often by hanging, soared 54%.
Suicide by hanging isn’t like capital punishment, at least in the U.S.
When a condemned person is executed, the body is dropped a distance that is calculated based on the person’s weight. The rope is boiled and stretched before it’s used so there won’t be a rebound at the end of the drop. Because of all these measures, the neck is snapped at the end of the drop and death is nearly instantaneous.
Suicide by hanging can take 8–10 minutes although it takes less time than that before the damage is irreversible. During some of that time, the person is conscious and actually is usually capable of freeing themselves. Yet the best part of 13,840 people ended their own lives in this way in 2018.
By contrast, suicides using a firearm tend to be both quick and final.
Nonetheless, the C-BEG wants to push red-flag laws, so it does. Despite the fact there is no evidence at all that they reduce the number of suicides.
After all, how much have you actually achieved if fewer people are using guns but more people are killing themselves?
Does, in fact, the C-BEG not care about the rest? Is the group using the tragedy of suicide to push an agenda that doesn’t even address the problem?
Some might call that cynical; some might call that cold-blooded; I call it seriously fucked up.
Connecticut has had Emergency Restraining Protective Orders (ERPOs) since 1999. Connecticut always had a fairly low percentage of suicides involving a firearm and since 1999, that percentage has dropped a little over 25% as of 2018. However, the suffocation percentage of suicides has soared nearly 45%, making it the most common method of suicide in the Nutmeg State. Worse, Connecticut’s suicide rate has increased faster than the national average.
If we look at the ten years from 2009 to 2018, we find that the use of firearms has actually increased slightly.
Now the state is looking at expanding the class of people who can request ERPOs. Sounds like the standard gun control ploy: if it doesn’t work, just add more. Reminds me of the old-time snake-oil hucksters in the traveling medicine shows.
California is also into red flag laws in a big way. Unlike the restrictions in Connecticut, everybody and their dog can request an ERPO and the burden of proof is almost comical.
Have they helped? No that you’d notice; California has always had a relatively low suicide rate, but red flag laws haven’t slowed the growth. Like Connecticut, California has seen a dramatic increase in suffocation suicides as well as a slight increase in firearm-related suicides.
The lesson here is very simple: the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence really is hijacking tragedy to push an agenda and they are lying to people to do it. To use a big, scary number without any context to create a misleading narrative is a lie. And while a lie repeated loudly enough and often enough can become accepted as the truth, it will always remain a lie.