As if the mass shootings repeatedly occurring in America are not enough of a reason to finally crack down on gun control and come together as a country, we have been brushing aside yet another significant dimension of gun violence. We make sure no one is listening when we discuss in whispers the horrific reality that guns and firearms are also the leading means of suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over half of all gun deaths in the US are suicide deaths. Let me repeat this – HALF of gun deaths in America are suicides! Why is this not spoken about in the ongoing debates surrounding gun control? How are we ignoring such a tragic result of guns that is staring us right in the face?
Thousands of human beings are dying and here we are unable to come together to agree that we need to ACT. We need to do something. Anything…anything that will bring back compassion to all. Does it not send chills down your spine when you realize that despite the losses of countless children, parents, siblings, and loved ones…we are still providing access to fatal weapons? We are still allowing this to happen? If we can be this split on an issue of such violence and such destruction, then where is humanity headed? Together we need to rekindle compassion and realize that love is in danger. That people are in danger. And that life is so much more important than is owning a gun. Since when did the right to own a deadly weapon overpower the preciousness of life?
The pure facts and statistics prove my point. In America in 2014, on average, an American died every 12.3 minutes by suicide…making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in America (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Likewise, of all the lives taken by suicide each year, over half are taken through the use of firearms. While females make suicide attempts three times as often as men, men are four times as likely to die by suicide. This is because men often resort to lethal methods of suicide, such as guns.
The disturbing nature of guns is the quick finality they provide to someone who is suicidal. They offer a fast way out of this world – a sudden decision that in a second, becomes permanent, with just the pull of a trigger. There is no time to slow down a person’s urge, to calm them, or to pause them just enough to break their impulse. When people commit suicide by guns, these rarely result in “suicide attempts” – they almost always end in suicide.
So if nothing else, we at least need to have more policies regarding keeping guns unloaded, locked up, or out of homes to slow down a suicide impulse and give a person time to seek help. Research has shown that locking and unloading guns does in fact lower the risk of suicide deaths.
And right now in the midst of the gun control debate, this needs to be emphasized. But not in a way to fuel gun owners to attack gun control even more. It’s not the time to make claims that this is solely a “mental health” issue, and that “stable” people have nothing to worry about. This is not a time to make a statement about mental health – or about the “crazy” people who just shouldn’t have guns. This is a statement of judgment, devaluing the lives and hearts of many individuals who may or may not be struggling with mental illness. Is there really a black and white distinction between those who should be able to own a weapon and those who should not?
You don’t have to be clinically depressed, or schizophrenic for years and years to commit suicide by firearms. A year of bullying, and an awful day, or a sudden death of a loved one can result in suicide. A loss of hope, or a moment of panic can result in suicide. Suicide does not discriminate. The real issue America is facing is that the fact that despite the exceedingly high number of gun caused suicides and homicides, people still find that their constitutional rights are more important than the lives of human beings.
Guns kill! It doesn’t matter that you need a person to pull a trigger. It doesn’t matter that a gun as an object itself cannot kill. What does matter, is a gun’s sole purpose is to kill. All it is made for is death. When did this become okay? And the fact that we are providing innocent, beautiful, miraculous people a permanent means of ending their lives? When a person is in so much pain and suffering that living is no longer worth it, we need to bring them hope. We need to show them that someday things can be better. That people love them, and that pain ends. And although this isn’t always enough, it is the start of progress. People need to understand and have compassion for others and realize that this is the only way for humanity to move forward. We don’t need weapons primarily designed to take life.
It is time to truly realize the devastation guns cause in terms of suicide deaths. It’s time to take a stand. We need regulations. We need prevention, and we need education. Most of all, we need to embark on a new plan to relieve America from this suffering. This is no longer just an ideological or political concern – it doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on. Guns should be a concern of everyone – for this is now a matter of kindness and caring for one another.
Does ownership of a lethal weapon ever truly outweigh the life of a person? It is heartbreaking to see people dying from guns every day. And it’s a tragedy that suicide related gun deaths are still hidden, under cover. It’s a tragedy. We are the only advanced country where death by guns is common – where the levels of gun violence have reached such an exceedingly high rate that gun deaths are no longer a surprise. We are still selling guns (with minimal regulation) used solely to inflict suffering upon society and individuals. This is not solely a public health concern – this is a humanitarian concern. In 2013 alone, guns were responsible for 21,000 suicides and 11,000 homicides. At what point is it enough? We can’t keep living like this. We can’t keep pretending that guns aren’t an issue, or that suicide cannot be prevented. It’s time that we come together to make a change in gun policy, and to make a change now. It’s time to start saving lives.