The Gun Ownership Issue No One Is Talking About

Gun Violence in the United States is out of control. What was intended as an amendment to allows State militias to defend themselves against an ever growing Federal tyranny has now been corrupted and convoluted into a justification for everything from assault level weapons to massive magazine capacities. We need stricter gun control laws to prevent mass shootings like the one at Newtown and Pulse while still allowing peaceful citizens to own low risk weapons.

That’s what Democrats and Liberals usually say when it comes to gun violence and gun control laws.

The 2nd Amendment is the right that protects every other. Not only do guns allow to the people to ensure their liberties aren’t encroached on by the government, it also allows them to prevent and deter crime in their area and protect their family. While mass shootings are a tragedy the issue is one of mental health in the United States and even heavy gun control cities like Chicago have high rates of gun crime. We need a better mental health apparatus to help prevent individuals from becoming deranged enough to commit such heinous crimes.

And that’s the usual Republican and Conservative pitch. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. This article isn’t to talk about or discuss what both sides say or why they say it. What’s far more telling is what they leave out.

The most saddening in this ongoing debate between the left and the right on guns isn’t the lack of compromise or even the political grandstanding that happens on both sides. It’s that despite how many times this issue has been discussed politicians on both sides continue to miss out on the real gun issue in the United States, suicides. Unbeknownst to most Americans that although mass shootings are incredibly common in the US compared to other countries they don’t actually make up that many of the gun deaths by percent in America. Neither do single-person homicides, instead, the most likely person to kill you with a gun is tragically, yourself. According to Alex Tabarrok an economics professor at George Mason, guns and suicides have a scary correlation saying that “We consistently found that each 1 percentage-point increase in household gun ownership rates leads to between 0.5 and 0.9 percent more suicides.” That level of correlation is shocking given how little suicides is discussed in the context of gun control. Not only is suicide linked to gun ownership it makes up a huge portion of gun deaths in the United States. Mike Mariani emphasizes this point in his article “America’s Biggest Gun Problem is Suicide” where he says that while the top 5 deadliest shootings since 2000 only add up to 101 deaths, gun suicides claimed over 20,000 lives in 2013 alone making up over 64% of total gun deaths this year. Now one of the first counter arguments people make to why guns and suicides may be correlated but may not be a causation issue is that a person having suicidal thoughts will simply turn to another method. While intuitive, this answer doesn’t actually hold up under scrutiny. Most suicides are impulsive and not deliberated decisions meaning that a small barrier such as 3-day waiting period on a gun can give someone enough time to change their mind and save their life. Furthermore, the extremely high lethality of guns compared to other suicide methods makes it much less likely that if a person does get their hand on a gun that they will survive. This is particularly important in noting that most people who survive a suicide attempt don’t end up dying of suicide meaning if we can removal particularly lethal methods such as guns we can save thousands of lives.

Now the solution to this problem isn’t obvious and seems to draw from both left ideas such as increased gun control and right wing proposals concerning mental health. However, the most important thing is to highlight this as an issue. The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one. In American gun politics, we have yet to do that with suicides. Let us hope that changes soon.

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