A new study published in the American Journal of Medicine suggests the way to prevent suicide may be by placing the emphasis on guns. The study reports that differences in suicide rates across America lie not in different rates of mental illness or depression, but in levels of gun ownership.
Suicide is the leading cause of injury death in the United States and the rate has increased in recent years. Although only one percent of suicide attempts are with guns, half of all deaths by suicide come from guns. Eighty percent of suicide attempts with a gun end in death, compared to only two percent of attempts with pills or cutting.
The study, carried out by researchers at Harvard University's Injury Control Resarch Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, examined the link between suicide and gun availability by studying the rates of suicide, gun ownership, and gun safety practices. It concludes that by focusing on gun safety, doctors may be able to dramatically decrease death by suicide
Greece has a rate of 2.9 suicides per 100,000 people, the lowest in the world as of 2005. The United States has a rate of 10.1 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the Washington Post. In Greece, there are 22.5 firearms per 100 people. In the United States, there are 101 firearms per 100 people.
The study points out significant historical instances of reducing access to popular suicide methods. In the early 1960's, half of all suicides in England and Wales came from suffocation by domestic gas. After carbon monoxide was taken out of gas supplies, the overall rate of suicide in the same areas dropped by 30 percent. In 1995, Sri Lanka retained one of the highest levels of suicide in the world, with most coming from poisoning by pesticides. After the use and sale of such pesticides were restricted, the suicide rate in Sri Lanka was cut in half.
The study purports that changing gun control laws is simply one solution. Doctors should also put "time and distance between a suicidal person and a gun," it concludes. It implores physicians to focus on providing information to gun owners who may be suicidal and to even advise them to have someone else hold onto their guns for a while.
Gun control is a contentious dividing point in American politics in the wake of many mass shootings. In a January Gallup poll, 24 percent of Americans reported being somewhat disatisfied with the nation's gun policies and 38 percent reported being very dissatisfied. Only nine percent reported being very satisfied with current laws.
Despite repeated calls for action, Congress has barely made even modest moves in the firearms arena. In a January speech, President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce gun violence, citing the frequency of suicide by firearms in the United States. After yet another shooting in June, this time at a nightclub in Orlando, the Republican dominated Congress blocked four measures that would restrict gun sales.