The chart shows the combined suicide and intentional homicide rates for 26 developed nations. It is always hard to come up with a list of countries to choose, so I let the Washington Post choose this list. They conveniently came up with the list in an article on suicide. As with most international comparisons, one of the major questions is: What countries do you choose to compare? It makes an enormous difference, and can cause exactly opposite conclusions . . .
Why was Luxembourg included, but not Australia? Ask the Washington Post. Why was Iceland included, but not the U.S. Virgin Islands? Ask the Washington Post. The numbers for intentional homicide were gathered from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, at this site. Intentional homicide is defined as unjustified intentional killing of another human outside of warfare. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term murder as a substitute for intentional homicide in the rest of the article.
The latest tactic among those who want a disarmed population is to lump suicide and murder together, in order to get a bigger number. This was done because the murder rate has fallen sharply in the United States, while the number of guns per person has risen about 40%. That makes it hard to blame the presence of firearms for a high murder rate. To make the “gun violence” numbers higher, the disarmists add in suicides committed with guns. There are about twice as many suicides committed with guns in the United States as there are murders with guns.
“Gun violence” is a propaganda term meant to create emotional antipathy to firearms. It means very little. Guns are inanimate objects. Violence is neutral, like gravity. It can be used for good or evil. What should be looked at from a policy perspective is whether the violence is justified, or not. Human actors are the controlling factor, not inanimate objects. It is unjustified violence that is we wish to minimize.
Suicide is a special case. It is almost impossible to defend yourself, against yourself. It is much harder for the state to defend you from yourself. Removing one method for suicide simply means that suicides will chose different methods. When Canada made guns harder to come by, suicide with guns dropped and suicide by hanging increased.
If the disarmists insist on lumping suicides with murders, they need to be made to own that assertion. The international comparison shows how silly that assertion is.
The idea that people in other countries are more capable of finding ways to kill themselves than people in the United States is laughable. Access to the Internet allows anyone with a computer or smart phone to find numerous ways to commit suicide cheaply, painlessly, and effectively, without a gun. I refuse to link to those sites, but they are easily found.
Many of the same people who become emotional about suicides committed with guns, support suicide facilitated by the state. It is easy to understand why. Personal responsibility is removed by removing access to guns; personal responsibility is removed by requiring state sanction for suicide. In both cases, power is taken from the individual and transferred to the state.
In the top chart, Austria and Poland have combined suicide and murder rates very close to those of the United States. The combined suicide and murder rate of France is higher. The combined suicide and murder rates for Finland, Japan, Belgium, Hungary, South Korea, and Mexico, are much higher. By the “logic” of those who lump suicide and murder together into “gun violence”, Finland, Japan, Belgium, Hungary, and South Korea are all more violent countries than the United States, and they all have much more restrictive gun policies.
Suicide and murder rates both vary considerably over time. So does the comparison of the combined rates. The chart is not meant to show that highly restrictive gun controls promote suicide or homicide or a combination of them. Nor is it meant to show that the right to keep and bear arms results in lower suicide or murder rates. It is meant to illustrate the irrationality of an argument that lumps suicide and murder together, in order to further a political agenda.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Link to Gun Watch