The Real Truth About Suicide and Guns

Lindsay Lohan (courtesy widdiful.com)

Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop unit – collectively known as The Trace – is pumping out civilian disarmament content by the barrel full. Recently, The Trace published an article on firearms-related suicides called Why Suicide Prevention Depends on Gun Restrictions. That particular piece of misdirection’s based on the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s report The Truth about Guns & Suicide – which I eviscerated hereBottom line: both anti-gun groups would have you believe a simple idea. The science is settled. No further discussion is necessary. Guns cause suicides . . .

Last week the Brady Campaign released an extensively researched report titled “The Truth About Guns & Suicide,” kickstarting a long overdue conversation on the role firearms play in suicides. The Washington Post, for instance, called the phenomenon “The death toll from guns no one talks about,” noting that suicide accounts for two-thirds of the 30,000-plus gun deaths each year in the U.S.

Whaddaya mean no one talks about it? In virtually every anti-gun polemic you will see suicides lumped together with homicides. Every time you see 30,000 a year (or 83 a day or 1,162 a fortnight) die from gun violence the antis are including suicides to boost their numbers. What they’re really saying: we’re opening another front in our ongoing efforts to deprive Americans of their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. For the children!

But you know what? I’m not going to do this. I could go on and on (again) about how suicide rates in places like Japan and Russia (with their strict gun control laws) are so much higher than ours. I could point out (again) that Canada’s gun ownership crackdown resulted in no change in overall suicide rates. But I am not going to do any of that. Instead, I’m going to show you a single graph.

bgraph

As TTAG commentator Chip Bennet advises, “Look at the blue line (firearm suicides), against the gray line (# firearms). There is obviously no correlation. On the other hand, there is an apparent correlation between “number of guns” and “non-firearm suicides” (the orange line). So, I guess the antis could make the ridiculous-on-its-face claim that the more firearms there are, the more people commit suicide by non-firearms means.”

In short, correlation is still not causation, even less so when there is no correlation.

comments

  1. avatar Gman says:

    Bruce – I don’t understand. What I see in that graph is that as the number of guns rise in this country so does suicides. It seems simple to me. More guns = more suicides both with and without guns. What could be simpler? #commonsensestupidity

    1. avatar Kyle in CT says:

      There are two trends worth mentioning here. First, between 1999 and 2007, the non-gun suicide rate increases while the gun-related suicide rate decreases. This while the overall number of guns increases. Second, from 2007 onwards, the two increase at about the same rate while the overall number of guns continues to increase.

      The only real conclusion here is that during different time periods, the relationship between total number of suicides and suicides by firearm changes, despite the fact that the total number of guns available increases monotonically. If the number of guns were a factor, then the relationship should not change trajectory as a function of time. But it does.

      1. avatar Felix says:

        tl;dr:

        If guns caused suicides, why does the non-gun suicide rate climb too?

        If guns cause suicides, why does the gun suicide rate decrease prior to 2006/2007 and climb after? It should be consistent.

        Why do the gun and non-gun suicide rates differ so dramatically before 2006/2007 and track so closely after?

        There are far too many inconsistencies to draw any conclusions from this graph except to say that there are no correlations period.

      2. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

        The answer is: Suicide rates go up with age for a variety of reasons. The population is aging so the suicide rate is increasing.

        Now how are assisted suicide counted. I bet they are not recorded as suicides.

        1. avatar JasonM says:

          And how does the high suicide rate among military veterans (22 per day in 2010), who probably also have a much higher rate of suicide with a firearm than the general public, skew the numbers?

          Perhaps Bloomberg should put some of that money into mental health for veterans (without any stigma or loss of rights).

      3. avatar JD says:

        What I see is a decrease in suicide during non democrat controlled years and a large uptick over the last 6-7 years. Now that may be just the current administration or it could be the party.

    2. avatar DaveK says:

      You are correct, you don’t understand. The suicide rate is not dependent on overall gun ownership. The graph shows regardless of method, suicide rates are nearly the same. Yes the suicide rate is rising, as is gun ownership, but blaming non-firearms suicide on the existence of guns is ignorant. There is not enough data presented in this graph to unequivocally say “More guns = more suicides both with and without guns”. What can be determined is that the volume of suicide, independent of method, is rising. There are other factors that could account for this rise such as an increasing population, slow economic growth, increasing urbanization, and the stigma of suicide in society. What we are doing right here in this comments section is a good thing, regardless of your personal stance on 2A, we are talking about suicide. When we talk about suicide we can begin to remove the stigma and encourage troubled individuals to seek help.

      1. avatar Gman says:

        What we are doing right here in this comments section is a good thing, regardless of your personal stance on 2A, we are talking about suicide. When we talk about suicide we can begin to remove the stigma and encourage troubled individuals to seek help.

        Dave – I understand perfectly. We are not talking about suicide. That is not the topic at hand. The topic at hand is that no matter what the data shows, the anti’s say anything they want and they are counting on their fellow lemmings to follow them off the cliff. What does this all boil down to? A PR campaign. Where lies, half truths, innuendo, and emotion bombards the lemmings until they fall right in line. #commonsenseguncontrol-is-stupidity

        1. avatar DaveK says:

          I agree that the misinformation campaign by the anti’s is everything you said it was, but now I am thoroughly confused by your original comment. The way I read it, it sounded like you were saying the increase of both firearms and non-firearms suicide were directly caused by the increase in gun ownership, which is patently false.

      2. avatar Gman says:

        Of course it’s false, but that doesn’t matter in a PR campaign. The only thing that matters to the anti’s is pandering to a base of voters who are so disconnected with life and politically uninformed that they will believe anything they are told to believe.

    3. avatar Chip Bennett says:

      I don’t think you’re reading the chart properly. There is no line of “total suicides”, so you sort of have to visualize that yourself.

      Look at the blue line (firearm suicides), against the gray line (# firearms). There is obviously no correlation. On the other hand, there is an apparent correlation between “number of guns” and “non-firearm suicides” (the orange line).

      So, I guess the antis could make the ridiculous-on-its-face claim that the more firearms there are, the more people commit suicide by non-firearms means.

      1. avatar Gman says:

        Chip – I would venture one could change the tile of the 3rd set from number of guns in the US to any of hundreds of rising statistics.
        Number of unemployed workers
        Number of cars on the road
        Number of toilettes
        Number of blue states
        Number of red states
        Number of people who don’t graduate high school
        Number of red light camera tickets

      2. avatar CarlosT says:

        This is a situation where a stacked bar chart would have been good. Any chance we can get a data source so we can Excel it up ourselves if we want?

    4. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      That relationship only holds if you selectively restrict the years to 2006 through 2012. You would have to ignore the years leading up to 2006 when firearms suicide rates declined, while quantities of firearms owned surged. You can’t argue one caused the other in a certain period, without addressing why one apparently had the opposite effect upon the other in another period.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Yeah, but you don’t *need* to argue it if you just leave the contraindicating data out of the analysis out of the “scientific study”.

    5. avatar Ray says:

      What about Sweden also a gun-free (handgun) zone which is a world leader in suicide?

    6. avatar Universally Consumed : "What's Your Flavor" says:

      SELF IMPOSED THREAD HI-JACK ALERT: (With sincere apologies to Bruce Kraft)

      Trump releases his 2nd Amendment Position Statement. (IMHO) Best ever by any previous candidate or President ever. At the site below, go to the POSITIONS button on the top Menu.

      https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/second-amendment-rights

      1. avatar Universally Consumed : "What's Your Flavor" says:

        The above is germane to Bruce’s piece via the section of the statement RE: “Broken Mental Health System” and it’s obvious link to suicide issues and …. guns.

  2. avatar Removed_californian says:

    How did people commit suicide before the gun was invented??? I bet people never thought of taking their own life until the gun was introduced and available.

    Lol, look at japan. Just look.

    Eta: the graph fails to take into account other aspects of the world/culture that may cause individuals to become more unstable/depressed/suicidal/etc. correlation =/= causation.

    1. avatar Five says:

      So, if you broke that down further, I bet you’ll see the trend reversals in groups particularly affected by economic conditions.

      You’ll also notice the rate of change (slope) of both gun and non-gun suicides was decreasing over the last year of data, while the slope of guns available was actually increasing.

      I would say the two suicide trend lines are affected more by economic trends and social trends while the gun ownership line has an persistent uptrend that is further affected by political expectations and social trends.

      Anyhow, lets trot out the suicide rates of other nations again. The UK with highly restricted gun access and fairly equivalent social norms, basically the same suicide rate as the US. Japan and Korea, granted different social norms, but highly restrict access to firearms, far higher suicide rates than the US, and almost none of those in Japan and Korea are by gun.

      I really wish the Brady Campaign would explain why these gun control havens have such a miserably high suicide rate.

      1. avatar DaveK says:

        ^^^This, all day long.

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        How many commit suicide each year due to hopeless depression caused by the stupidity of our government? There should be a law!

  3. avatar Wiregrass says:

    Our overseas wars of adventure couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.

    1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      Don’t know if you are trolling or being sarcastic, but no. Despite the hysteria, suicide rates among Service Members were rarely that much higher then the civilian population.

      You would also have to discount the majority of cases where Service Members who never or didn’t deploy but committed suicide due to other reasons. Financial issues, poor relationships, and depression can strike a person even if they weren’t slinging lead in some foreign land.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        I’m going to go with “Sarcastic” for $400 Alex.

  4. avatar David Thompson says:

    Funny how the gun suicides suddenly began an uptick about the time the economy collapsed.

  5. avatar Roy says:

    The reason suicides arent comparable to murders is that you can have a sky high suicide rate in a community and still feel safe walking down the streets at night.

    Their article talks about “easy access” and needing to restrict access to firearms but gave no specifics about policies to change it. The problem with any policies targetting depressed people is that they’ll likely not seek treatment so their guns arent taken away compounding the suicide problem . But i dont think preventing suicides is something they actually care about. They just want find ways to chip away at gun rights.

  6. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Let me help all of you confused anti’s who are trying to blame suicide on guns, joining the Bloomberg liars in their statistical distortions: From Wikipedia, List of Countries by Suicide Rate in 2015

    Countries with strict gun control:
    Guyana, suicide rate 44.2/100k, world rank, 1st;
    Russia, suicide rate 19.5/100k, world rank 14th;
    Japan, suicide rate 18.5/100k, world rank 17th;

    Countries with “lax” gun control and lots of guns:
    USA, suicide rate 12.1, world rank 50th;
    Switzerland, suicide rate 9.2, world rank 77th.

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    LOGIAL conclusion – correlation is not causation. In other words, the Bloomberg-ers are, as usual, lying.

  7. avatar dragos111 says:

    This analysis also assumes causality between the number of guns and suicide rates. What if they are simply coincident and the real reason is something else is causing the rise in suicides? For example, we all know that Obama scared everyone into running out and buying guns when they thought they might be outlawed. At the same time Obama caused much frustration, fear, loathing, etc. regarding his politics, the economy, foreign affairs, etc. That alone could have affected suicide rates. The guns increasing at the same time was simply coincident and caused by the same underlying problem.

    Just because two lines on a chart are moving in the same direction, it does not actually prove causality. It can simply show coincidence.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      It still really grabs me that so many people on both sides of this argument acknowledge that people ran out to buy record amounts of guns in response to Obammy’s threats to outlaw them, without anyone pointing out that those people clearly are not intending to turn them in, regardless of the law. If they were, a threat to outlaw them would result in a massive DROP in gun sales.

  8. avatar paulc says:

    Liberal states and countries more likely to support and legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia but ban guns because suicide.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    If the Brady Campaign’s focus was suicide prevention, the Joyce Foundation, Bloomberg and Soros would cut off their funding in a heartbeat.

    I lost two friends to suicide. One jumped off the roof of the dorm, and the other hung himself in his bathroom with a wire. Brady, Joyce, Bloomberg and Soros could not possibly care less about them, because they didn’t use guns. Fvck all the gungrabbing billionaires and their corrosive hypocrisy.

  10. avatar Chris says:

    Can you please stop showing pictures of Lindsay Lohan, isn’t that like two times this week? I’m certain you’ve lost several readers to suicide at this point. Do it for the children, no more Lindsay.

  11. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Any time someone makes any claims about firearms and suicides, all you have to do is share this: what could be easier or more effective than driving a car into the concrete pillars of a bridge or highway overpass at 90 m.p.h? It is exceedingly simple, painless, and guaranteed to kill the driver EVERY TIME.

    You could also mention how cheap and easy it is buy 25 feet of large rope, tie one end of a large rope around your neck, tie the other end to the guard rail of a bridge or overpass (making sure to leave no more than 8 feet of rope to hang off the bridge), and jump off. That is exceedingly simple, painless, and guaranteed to kill the jumper EVERY TIME.

    And the rope method costs considerably less than a firearm.

    My apologies to anyone whose friend or family member has killed themselves — especially if my descriptions are particularly relevant to your loved one’s actions.

  12. avatar BurleyOleBear says:

    ummm, Japan?!

  13. avatar Daily Beatings says:

    There is a positive correlation between religion and suicide rates. In countries that are predominately Catholic or Muslim the suicide rate is much lower:

    http://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/Files/Maps/Global_AS_suicide_rates_bothsexes_2012.png?ua=1

  14. avatar Steve says:

    The fact is, those most likely to kill themselves with a firearm, males, are those most likely to kill themselves by ANY means.
    Put another way, a male sticks a shotgun in his mouth, and if he can’t get a shotgun, he jumps off a bridge. Females, on the other hand, swallow a bottle of pills and then post on Facebook about it.
    In places where firearm ownership is low, the suicide rate doesn’t change dramatically, but the method does.

  15. avatar nicephotog says:

    You don’t want to listen to people that have their own Adolf Hitler – Pol Pot – Stalin
    re – Idi Amin (idi Amin killed his people at 5 times the rate of Stalin – most of Stalin’s were starved to death in the Gulag prison area of Siberia, a very harsh environment he himself had survived) , Australia trained their troops before during and after the coup, and some Ugandan soldiers in Australia during Amin’s of Uganda control of Uganda regardless the “white Australia policy”.
    https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02021.017

    If the public one are not the “typical” type, then Australia joins the USA with or without firearms as a country of mass killers(Only….in principle…as statistics show, they don’t use a fire-arm usually), e.g. Cairns child murders 2014, Monash university shooting early 2000, Man Haron Monis martin place siege, or Lockhart NSW G.Hunt family murders-suicide.

    There have been two double murder stabbings(one public), and one McDonalds murder suicide with a handgun(banned around 1902) in Australia in the past few days.
    Article quote:…”Under South Carolina law, a convicted murderer is eligible for the death penalty if “two or more persons were murdered by the defendant by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct.”…

    AND who can forget the golden oldies like the one in Melbourne Vic a couple of months back of a double stabbing murder by a home invading almost geriatric woman who stabbed to death a man and a boy in the house.
    None of the gun debate was ever democratic in Australia. I presume it is an extremely different problem in Canada because of the economic loss by differences of laws at the border to have the same as Australia.
    Their answer is always scare monger then tell the people what they said by the journalist that wrote what they said in the newspaper.
    Forum Thread: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=59797.0
    One of the biggest killers of species that have aggression are governments!!!
    In Australia Africanised bees (simply for point cross bred) are not allowed to be kept.
    Many breeds of dog are not allowed to be kept.
    All this because they cannot understand aggression in it’s correct context for a kept species.
    It’s also a smart arse about people keeping them, they then totally ban them so they never need face them!!!

    You can understand from this following video how endemic by governments , the idea of destroying survival instinct in a species is, “because of the species aggression” !!! Really it cannot be done because it “defies” gravity metaphorically.
    (time: 7:06)
    “Selection of honey bees for yield and behaviour”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYtPTt512tE
    So in the above video “where does the idea …AKA .GENTLE.. COME FROM???”
    Handling a simple species such as bees by understanding it is no different finally to the point of understanding dogs and hunting or work dogs or wolves.

    The following is true propaganda style rather than a concerned informative direction of what to view the activity is by process to recognise course of action.
    “IS groom recruits like paedophiles: ASIO”
    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/09/19/is-groom-recruits-like-paedophiles–asio.html

  16. avatar Edward Jaffe says:

    Read the label on ANY SSRI drug. We have millions of Rx out for them — and not even supposed to be used long term.

    Warning: RISK OF SUICIDAL THOUGHTS……

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