“I read with disappointment the March 5 Metro article “Fight over Arlington gun store escalates,” psychiatrist Liza H. Gold admits in a letter of the editor. “The Post reproduced Dennis R. Pratte’s photograph of his 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, holding a gun and standing in front of about a dozen guns [above]. In doing so, The Post missed an opportunity to discuss a primary concern this image should evoke: the risk guns pose in the hands of teenagers.” And every time The Post prints a picture of a crime scene it should discuss the importance of armed self-defense. Anyway here’s Ms. Gold’s logic . . .
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents, and about 40 percent of teen suicides are committed with firearms. That people younger than 18 cannot legally buy guns is not an obstacle to teen firearm suicides. Generally, they use their parents’ unsecured firearms.
Clicking on Ms. Gold’s link to the World Health Organization, we can examine the WHO’s age-adjusted suicide stats for the decade between 1990 and 2000. The suicide rate in the U.S. was significantly lower than “gun free” Japan’s (13.9 per 100k vs. 19.5 per 100k). The report also identifies what happens when a country “cracks down” on civilian gun ownership.
In the past two decades, in some countries such as Australia, there has been a remarkable increase in hanging as a means of suicide, especially among younger people, accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the use of firearms.
And the suicide rate remains the same. I’d also like to point out that if 40 percent of American teen suicides are firearms-related, 60 percent are not. Why isn’t Dr. Gold focused on the suicide methods used by most teens like…drug overdoses? What about unsecured pills? Nope. Because guns. Like this:
As a psychiatrist, I have spoken with grieving parents whose tragic loss is multiplied exponentially by the knowledge that the means of their child’s preventable death was a gun they kept in the home. Whenever a child or teen is brought into gun debates, The Post should remind readers that perspectives about the risks guns present go beyond the non-constructive and tread-worn “pro-gun” Second Amendment vs. “anti-gun” gun-control arguments.
I don’t doubt that the parents of a teen who committed suicide with one of their guns feels a special kind of guilt. But assuming or even suggesting that if there hadn’t been any firearms kept in the home their child might still be alive is cruel, dangerous nonsense.
Arguing that media images showing children or teens safely handling guns should always include a health warning is less dangerous but equally irrational. Doing so would perpetuate the idea that guns are bad. Not true. Negligent or criminal gun use is bad. As is untreated – and sometimes untreatable — mental illness. Focus on that, Doc.