Can Gun Control Reduce Suicides?

by Mike Weisser  |  published on October 29, 2014

Whenever a particularly horrendous shooting occurs, like the one at Marysville High School in Washington last Friday, we redouble our efforts to find a way to deal with the carnage caused by guns. We take as a given the correlation between more gun control laws and lower rates of gun violence, and we assume that since most people obey laws, if we pass a law prohibiting or controlling the ownership or use of guns, the law will have its desired effect. Except in the case of gun violence I’m not so sure this is correct, nor am I sure that the data proffered up to justify this argument says what gun safety advocates believe it says. Case in point: a new report issued by the Violence Policy Center that finds higher rates of gun violence in states with fewer gun control laws.

The report, actually a press release, is based on the 2012 mortality data issued by the CDC and available for viewing/analysis online. When I looked at the CDC data used to calculate gun violence, the raw numbers agreed with the numbers published by the VPC, but I found myself asking questions that simply don’t fit into the neat more laws = less gun violence paradigm that the VPC and other gun safety advocates firmly believe. For example, the VPC correctly notes that overall gun deaths increased from 2011 to 2012. But gun accidents declined a tiny bit, while homicides and suicides both moved slightly up. The more alarming news is that gun suicides account for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths, a percentage that has been steadily climbing each year while, until recently, gun homicides have been coming down.

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