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Firearms Purchases and Suicide Rates: An Analysis

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Abstract

This paper will discuss the increase of use in firearms and its correlation to suicide rates as well as the involvement and role that gun stores play in the events that take place after a purchase. Such content in the article includes an evidence-based approach that provides data and statistical information pertaining to the duration of a suicide crisis, which has been deemed time-limited, along with lifesaving restrictions that limits access to lethal methods of committing the act of suicide. As firearm related suicide has reached epidemic proportions, the firearm community and public health experts have amalgamated to provide a movement that raises awareness and promotes gun safety along with other options to prevent an individual from committing the act of suicide. This paper will also explore the basis of a summary of the article as well as a discussion, which includes a personal perspective along with opinions on the topic in general and the article itself.

Background Information

A young man walks into a gun shop located in Hooksett, New Hampshire and the man asked a clerk about purchasing a handgun. The customer engaged in small talk with the clerk, which may have repudiated any suspicions of initial intent. Indeed a tragedy ensued and the 24 year old victim had not been the only one. Ralph Demicco, the gun shop owner, was so disconcerted by this experience that it prompted him to found a movement to aid in awareness about gun safety. Households that keep their guns and ammunition secured in separate, locked areas and store them unloaded have a lower risk of accidental and intentional deaths. The movement seeks to deem it socially acceptable for family and friends to offer to hold onto a suicidal gun owner’s weapon until the crisis has passed.

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Studies have shown that suicide is an impulsive decision. “. . .almost half of the 82 people who attempted suicide said they had started thinking about their current attempt less than 10 minutes earlier” (Shute, 2016). Not only is that a quick time frame, but one in 10 suicides involving a firearm within 2007 to 2009 had been purchased or rented the week prior or just within a few hours before the act. Although guns are not the most popular way, they are the most lethal. “Statistics show that 85 percent of attempts with a gun are fatal, compared with 69 percent for hanging and 2 percent for self-poisoning. Mass shootings and murders dominate the news, but 21,334—or nearly two thirds— of the 33,599 gun deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2014 were suicides” (Shute, 2016).

Demicco as well as a few other gun shop owners and the firearm community have melded with mental health practitioners and researchers after a rash of suicides in 2009 to limit access to lethal methods to commit suicide. Posters and brochures were sent to retail gun shops around New Hampshire. The motive was to encourage customers to be alert to the signs of a suicide crisis that may resonate within a friend or family member as well as making firearms inaccessible until these thoughts had passed.

After New Hampshire had established this model, other states have adopted as well as adapted to it. “Utah, which at 21 deaths per 100,000 people has one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S., is training staff at hospitals and doctors’ offices to screen patients for suicide risk and to intervene appropriately” (Shute, 2016). Another example is that Massachusetts allows only someone licensed to possess a firearm can take the weapon for safekeeping and a trigger lock is attached to it and the key is given to someone trusted.

Methodology

These methods to prevent firearm related suicide is a step in the right direction, but I believe that it is still too early to detect if the impact is substantial. In the article, it mentioned that looking at a poster once won’t solve the problem, which is true, but a poster in general probably won’t induce second thoughts. People may even overlook the posters or brochures. Although the gun shop owner and workers are not necessarily responsible for such an act, it does enable the action to transpire regardless of knowledge of the intent in use of the weapon.

In order to see an actual reduction in firearm related suicides is to put more strict legalities and regulations to obtain a lethal weapon. It is much easier for a 14 year old to obtain a firearm than it is for them to obtain alcohol or cigarettes. Compared to other nations around the world, they have a more strict gun control policy put into place. The article mentions, “Its leaders are realists who accept that very strict, European-style gun control is not politically feasible in the U.S. and would, in any case, be a nonstarter for most gun sellers, who oppose such control” (Shute, 2016), which I find to be quite absurd. Americans are more concerned with owning a firearm rather than others’ safety. A more strict policy will prevent firearm related suicides and in turn create a domino effect and reduce any killings in relation to a firearm.

I believe that suicide is a selfish act. It not only affects you, but it affects the people around you and it won’t make all your problems disappear. It can easily be passed on to your spouse or relatives. As the article mentions, suicide is an impulsive natured act and is time-limited. These thoughts are temporary. The involvement of friends and family is a key component. A friend or family member may act normal one day and then the next you find out they’ve committed suicide. Friends and family members should be more alert and aware of their loved one’s behavior. Ask questions, and if you have any suspicions, pry open their thoughts and feelings to gain knowledge of what’s really going on with them.

I had a teammate once that was struggling through depression and had thoughts of possibly ending their life. Their grades were slipping, they didn’t have the motivation to do anything, and they didn’t enjoy the sport that they once loved and they felt miserable that their problems wouldn’t disappear. Luckily, my teammate had a great support system around them that involved not only their teammates, but their family as well. My teammate was able to find the help that they needed. In my experience with my teammate, it was a chain of events that had led them to close to the deep end. The early signs were there, but no one knew what they were going through. Don’t allow yourself to be a bystander, you never know if you have the potential to save someone’s life.

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