More than half of firearm deaths are suicides
Statistics generated in 2005 (the most recent year for which statistics are available surrounding firearms deaths) reveal that deaths accounted for by firearms are largely suicides. Specifically, out of the nation’s 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, 55 percent were accounted for by suicide. Homicide accounted for 40 percent of gun deaths in 2005, accidents 3 percent, and legal killings (police shootings) 2 percent.
A great deal of controversy surrounds these numbers. One study found that families which experience suicide are three to five times more likely to have a gun in the house. Justice Stephen Breyer commenting said, “If a resident has a handgun in the home that he can use for self-defense, then he has a handgun in the home that he can use to commit suicide or engage in acts of domestic violence.” However, many still contend that individuals who wish to commit suicide will find other means. The Supreme Court had its say about this issue this past week in a 5 to 4 ruling that overthrew a handgun ban enacted in the District of Columbia in 1976, focusing on the citizen’s ability to defend from home intruders. The following is an excerpt of an article from CNN.com that discusses the issue:
Studies have also shown that homes in which a suicide occurred were three to five times more likely to have a gun present than households that did not experience a suicide, even after accounting for other risk factors.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court on Thursday struck down a handgun ban enacted in the District of Columbia in 1976 and rejected requirements that firearms have trigger locks or be kept disassembled. The ruling left intact the district’s licensing restrictions for gun owners.
One public-health study found that suicide and homicide rates in the district dropped after the ban was adopted. The district has allowed shotguns and rifles to be kept in homes if they are registered, kept unloaded and taken apart or equipped with trigger locks.
The American Public Health Association, the American Association of Suicidology and two other groups filed a legal brief supporting the district’s ban. The brief challenged arguments that if a gun is not available, suicidal people will just kill themselves using other means.