Monday, July 12, 2010

Handguns shouldn't be a household staple

Chicago Tribune article "Handguns shouldn't be a household staple" (July 9th, 2010) argues that handguns in homes make suicide easier for young people:

A gunshot is quick and irreversible. About 90 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal, compared with 2 percent of drug overdoses and 3 percent of attempts by cutting. Adolescents who experience a moment of despair and act impulsively with easy access to a gun almost always have a deadly result. Adolescents also are likely to survive most other methods of suicide, and nine out of 10 who attempt suicide and survive will not die by suicide at a later date.

Of course, people choose different weapons when they want to die with certainty. Those who take drugs or cut their wrists may not substitute into a handgun even if one is available because they seek attention or risk, not certain death. The proper comparison for the author to make would be whether suicide rates rise as soon as gun laws change in a state. A study by doctor David C. Stolinsky published in the Medical Sentinel notes that
The U.S. suicide rate has fluctuated between 10 and 17 for a century, with peaks in 1908 and 1932, and shows no relation to gun laws or gun availability.
Further research that exploits within-state variation is necessary to fully understand the impact of gun availability on suicide rates. Nonetheless, the Chicago Tribune's article attempts to make fact from what is quite possibly fiction, using irrelevant statistics to convince readers of a largely untested hypothesis.

1 comment:

  1. Corrections nailed the issue. The Chicago Tribune's association is just another near random attempts to try to come up with some rationale to abridge the right of Americans to bear arms. One can expect that their next article will be that guns in the household have a negative impact on visits from the tooth fairy.