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By Thomas E. Gift, MD

A recent report published in the American Journal of Public Health examines whether laws restricting the right to keep and bear arms have effects on homicides and suicides not caused by guns. They found no increase or decrease in non-gun homicides associated with changes in gun-related homicides, and the data regarding suicides were too sparse to be useful. Their report was based on examining a series of earlier studies.

To the authors’ credit, they noted that some experts describe a substitution effect, that is, a person not killed by a firearm may instead be killed by some other form of violence. They cite several previous studies finding that those who don’t commit suicide by shooting are likely to do so by other means, and that homicides not committed by shooting will probably occur by other means.

There are however a number of problems with the publication. The authors seem to see all homicides as bad, and never mention justifiable homicides. These often involve self-defense, or appropriate actions by police or bystanders to protect the innocent.

The researchers seem to assume that any reduction in homicides is desirable, ignoring the injuries, arsons and assaults that are prevented by the appropriate use of force.

A recent DRGO contributor noted the existence of many dozens of peer-reviewed academic studies conducted by a wide range of authors suggesting that widespread gun ownership deters crime. He pointed as well to a specific instance in which children died needlessly because security officers were unarmed.

In this school shooting, in which many children lost their lives, the justifiable homicide of the shooter would have avoided heartbreak for families and prevented the school careers of many teenagers from ending in a mournful trip to a cemetery.

Academics have found evidence that right-to-carry laws deter violent crime, including rapes and murders, and also lower burglary rates, while restrictions on concealed carry laws may increase the number of people who are murdered. Having a firearm is especially important for women, who are typically smaller and not as strong as those who attack them—being armed can compensate for this difference.

Reports of homeowners using guns to defend against intruders are reported daily. Since intruders are often young men, it’s common that the occupant of a household are less physically powerful than their attackers, and thus a justifiable homicide by a firearm prevents death or injury at the hands of a criminal.

In evaluating the studies they cite, the authors of the APJH report don’t acknowledge that many people without access to a gun who kill themselves by other means are misunderstood as having died accidently. Examples include drug overdoses, single car “accidents” and walking into traffic. Drug overdoses in particular can appear accidental when in fact they are really suicides. Motor vehicle accidents involving only one driver are often really suicides.

Failure to recognize these suicides for what they are masks the fact that those who don’t use a gun to kill themselves do so using other methods. This minimizes the impact of reductions in suicides by gun increasing suicides by other means, and erroneously inflates the percentage of suicides involving a firearm.

Difficulties distinguishing suicides from other forms of violent death, such as accident or murder, have been described in a number of publications. Interestingly, a recent research endeavor using complex statistical techniques to examine risks for suicide identified problems with depression as the primary predictor, with no mention of access to firearms.

The takeaway message is that relationships between homicide, justifiable homicide, suicide and firearm availability are complex. But the intent of murderers and suicide victims are almost always discernible. It is elementary foolishness to blame inanimate objects for how people choose to act.


Thomas E. Gift, MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Rochester, New York, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical School, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.


This article was originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 


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  1. Truth and facts have no place in their conversation. Fear and obfuscation rule their agenda! Their biggest fear is more people are finally seeing through it!!!

    • Those who believe that gun control has anything to do with suicide prevention are just being led down another rabbit hole. Gun control has nothing to do with lowering the homicide rate or preventing crime. Gun control is all about control, period. There are those in our government and those who are influenced by foreign governments who want to disarm the American people so they may be more easily controlled. Only fools are willing to surrender their 2nd Amendment Constitutional rights.

  2. An interesting piece, perhaps, but many statements without citations. The article may have been longer, but insertion of actual findings (statistics/data) would have been not only useful, but elevated the narrative beyond simple assertions of facts and conclusions.

    • The idea that people are killed with things other than guns needs no citation of any kind. If guns were the only way people could be killed then yes, of course.

      • “The idea that people are killed with things other than guns needs no citation of any kind.”

        A reference to a breakdown of implements would be useful. Merely stating that people are killed by objects other than guns is too simplistic. On the other hand, “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary. For those who refuse to believe, no evidence is sufficient.”

          • “Do we really need to count the myriad of ways a person can be killed? Firearms are only one.”

            General categories are too troublesome for us: Firearms; Blades; Hand Tools; Blunt Objects?

            Otherwise, why write an article longer than: “More people are killed by non-firearms, than by firearms. Focusing on firearms is mere political theater.”?

            These articles are not just for talking among ourselves.

        • The FBI is the source for what you are looking for. They put out a list of all the types of things used to kill people. That list is years old. But I don’t think anything on it has changed.

        • Sam, that’s true, but the kind of “citations” you appear to want are likely not obtainable. How exactly can you put a number of suicides to reported 3,000 single car accident deaths? We may know that some are bound to be suicides, but how many would be pure guesswork. Likewise drug ODs or falls from high altitude.

          • “…the kind of “citations” you appear to want are likely not obtainable.”

            Too complicated. As noted yesterday, general characterizations would help. For instance, there is data available that breaks homicides into categories. A simple recitation (not just a link) of: firearm; blades; shop tools; hands and feet. Such a breakdown would give support to the narrative, and also provide a quick comparison of manners of homicide. The reader could then be linked to the data source to learn of the rest of the categories.

            Short answer: the article had no real meat on the bone.

            The article is just full of assertions, and little immediate analysis. What I suggest would not lead to an article so lengthy as to be ignored. On the other hand, if the audience only wants to read two or three sentences that confirm preconceptions, my recommendation of providing a headline, a simple sentence (“Fire arms are not the leading cause of suicide deaths, as anti-gunners like to believe. For more information, follow the designated links provided.”)

      • China killed millions with a bio weapon. That near sexual relationship with the Biden’s will pay off.

      • I need a doctor to tell me things I don’t know about medicine, etc. Beyond that lots of them need to clean up their own backyards full of incompetence and medical malpractice.

    • I must agree with Sam’s observations, the citation of specific studies would’ve been very helpful in strengthening the validity of this article.

      Regardless, this is exactly the type of information that pro-gun politicians need to advocate for sustainment and expansion of our gun rights.

      The majority of legislators are actually reasonable and thoughtful people, who are willing to entertain valid evidence when it is presented by reasonable and thoughtful people with training and experience to validate their research conclusions.

      More of this and less Q anon insurrections, that’s my goal.

      • “The majority of legislators are actually reasonable and thoughtful people, who are willing to entertain valid evidence when it is presented by reasonable and thoughtful people with training and experience to validate their research conclusions.”
        Wishful thinking, Miner. The majority of politicians at the federal level, which is what matters for sweeping gun control and restructuring of the courts, is against the Second Amendment and for more redundant and useless gun control laws. In the very near term, the filibuster will be gone in the Senate and Democrats will support Biden’s gun control platform. While many voted the way they did because of their dislike or hatred for Trump, there is no part of the Democrat platform that supports gun ownership. Two years from now, even if either the House or Senate could be flipped, may well be too late.

        • I disagree, and as evidence for my assertion I point to the first two years of Obama’s presidency, in 2009 and 11 the Democrats enjoyed the majority in both houses of Congress as well as the presidency but we saw no sweeping gun control legislation.
          (other than the CARD act in 2009, when the Obama/Biden administration signed into law gun freedoms for citizens to carry in millions of acres of Nat’l Forests and BLM lands)

          The same holds true for trumps first two years, the Republicans held both houses and the presidency yet we saw no sweeping gun control legislation.

      • Oh, Minor IQ, you do have a purpose, after all!! You are here for comic relief, apparently.

        “The majority of legislators are actually reasonable and thoughtful people, who are willing to entertain valid evidence when it is presented by reasonable and thoughtful people with training and experience to validate their research conclusions.”

        I have known, met with, worked on the campaigns of, and advocated to a large number of politicians, local, state and federal. I would hazard a guess that it has been far more than most on this site. I find your assertion laughably naive or hopelessly optimistic. Politicians (on both sides) as a class are shallow, poorly educated, egotistical, power-hungry, and typically not bright at all. Your description is simply laughable.

        But, perhaps, given your own limited intellectual abilities, you did find the few politicians you’ve actually personally interacted with to be quite impressive, intellectually. That would not surprise me.

    • I am assuming that you missed the part where the article provided a link to the actual report, and contained several links to related sources??

      I understand that it is inconvenient to actually click through to the underlying source (which is replete with citations, etc.), but requiring you to make three clicks, instead of two, is hardly an unfair burden.

      When it comes to public policy and politics, I find a willingness to do more than superficial research to be useful.

      • “I am assuming that you missed the part where the article provided a link to the actual report, and contained several links to related sources??”

        Nope. I followed the link. However, if the quality of articles descends to a bunch of links, then the text of the articles should be nothing more than a declaration, such as, “New gun control laws will be a burden on the Second Amendment”, followed by only a series of links. In an explanatory article, providing links for those wanting further information is one thing, but an article that is merely a summary, depending entirely for usefulness upon links is just not up to scratch. Besides, a good author sprinkles samples in the narrative, then adds links for further support. (Also note how many articles in media are merely a cut-and-paste job from social media, with little explanatory information provided under the headline).

        To your point, if it is too much trouble for an author to provide any direct supporting information, relying solely on the reader to research, then don’t bother to put the article up for publication.

        • And if I were a professor, grading the article as an answer on a test, or even a dissertation, I would grade the article appropriately. If I am trying to educate myself with respect to a policy issue? My own laziness is not a justification for walking away from the article uneducated on the subject, because it was “too much trouble” to do the additional clicks and reads.

          Sorry, just my approach. I can be frustrated with an author not providing the direct underlying facts (but that would have made the article unwieldy), but my choice to search the provided links, or not, was . . . my choice.

          • The article just seemed weak sauce, to me. As noted, if the intent is to have the readers discover their own sources, it is a simple matter to provide a headline and the admonition to “Get cracking; see what you can make of it.”

            Also as noted, a salting of direct data sprayed throughout the article would be more enlightening, leaving it to the reader whether the matter is worthy of further investigation, or if what was provided was sufficient to consider oneself adequately informed.

            Just my way, I suppose.

  3. Thank you, Dr. Gift for this easy-to-read summary of a research article we would likely never have seen or had access to without a subscription.

  4. Suicides are like abortion….your body your choice. What you use or how you do it is up to you. Just don’t make it murder suicide.

    • Leigh,

      Suicides are like abortion….your body your choice. … Just don’t make it murder suicide.

      Your statement is incoherent.

      Abortion is killing a baby in the mother’s uterus before (or in the process of) removing him or her from the mother’s uterus — that absolutely involves two bodies. Thus you cannot claim that mothers who want to kill and remove the baby inside of them is only a matter of the mother’s body since it also involves the baby’s body.

      Furthermore, when abortion kills a baby that is not an imminent threat of killing the mother, that is not self-defense and is therefore murder. The fact that our criminal justice system fails to recognize that as murder does not change the fact that it is, indeed, murder.

      So, your statement suggests that a person should be able to do whatever they want to themselves as long as that person does not harm/murder anyone else in the process — and yet you claim that women should be able to murder the babies inside of them. That is why your statement is incoherent.

      And before anyone tries to claim that a baby in the mother’s uterus is a mere “clump of cells” or a “tumor”, that is an out-and-out lie. First of all, that is a human life in the mother’s uterus. The only “uncertainty” is how “developed” that human life is. And to emphasize that point, at the end of just six weeks after conception, the baby has arms and legs, fingers and toes, circulatory system and heartbeat. And by the end of the 12th week (3 months of pregnancy), the baby simply looks like a tiny/miniature fully-developed human. That is most certainly NOT a “tumor” or a “clump of cells”. People who push that characterization are doing what mankind has done for all recorded history to give themselves license to murder other human beings: dehumanizing the victims.

      Make no mistake: abortion is a “nice” word intended to obfuscate/sanitize the act of killing and removing a human being from the mother’s uterus. It always has been and always will be wrong, even if society refuses to acknowledge that fact.

      • The point is that common sense tells us that in ANY circumstance it is none of any man’s business, nor any woman not of child bearing age. The Supreme Court ruled further that the question could only be answered by the individual woman affected. Please state your qualifications for contradicting the Supreme Court and your justification why your *opinion* should be accepted over that of anyone else, most particularly over the opinion of a woman who is pregnant. And ALL who have any interest in this proposal of massive governmental control over women’s lives should remember that if the government has the authority to prevent abortion, it follows that it also has the authority to mandate abortion.

        • Hey, LarryinTX, what uncommon_sense is saying is not his opinion. These are facts. Maybe you should educate yourself on the subject of abortion instead of parroting what you have been told by those who will one day be called to account for their holocaust of the murder of the innocent in a court higher than our puny Supreme Court. God will not be mocked. His Law is Supreme Law.

        • Larry in TX,

          So, it isn’t anyone’s business if a mother murders her 3 week old baby? What if her baby is only 3 hours old? Or 3 seconds old? Or how about 3 seconds before totally clearing the birth canal? (Head is out and body is still in the birth canal.) What about 3 seconds before the first part of the baby begins to exit the birth canal? What about 3 hours before exiting the birth canal? How about 3 weeks or 3 months before exiting the birth canal?

          In other words what does time or location have to do with whether or not the human life inside the mother is a human life — and whether it is right or wrong for a mother to end the human life inside of her (which is murder plain and simple)?

          Please note that I am speaking about consistency and right versus wrong. I am not speaking about how any court views the legalities or illegalities of a mother ending her baby’s life.

          And I most certainly oppose the idea of government having any legitimate authority to mandate/force women to end the lives of their babies at any time during pregnancy, labor, or after birth. Bringing up government coerced murder of babies is a Grade-A strawman rebuttal though, and has no bearing on whether or not a baby is a baby or whether a mother can righteously end her baby’s life.

        • LarryinTx,

          Furthermore, I did not state opinions. I stated simple, indisputable, widely known facts.

          Fact: a pregnant woman has a human life inside of her.
          Fact: that human life has fingers, toes, and heartbeat after 6 weeks.
          Fact: that human life looks virtually identical to you and I after 12 weeks.
          Fact: abortion ALWAYS kills and removes that human life from the mother.
          Fact: when we kill someone NOT in self-defense, that is murder.

          Every argument that advocates for ending the life of the baby in the mother and removing it from her uterus is grounded in intense feelings and attempting to substitute alternate “interpretations” of immutable facts. Perhaps the most popular alternate “interpretation” is claiming that a baby in the womb is not actually a human life per-se but is just a “fetus” or “potential human life” which is not entitled to all of the value, dignity, and protections to which all other human lives are entitled. In other words abortion advocates attempt to dehumanize babies in the womb in order to make it “okay” to kill them and remove them. Fact: babies in the womb are no less a human life — entitled to all the same value, dignity, and protections — as any black slave in 1842 Virginia, any Jew in 1942 Germany, or any woman in modern day Muslim countries.

            • “Hey, LarryinTX, got some information for you. Fetus is the Latin word for baby.”

              Yeah, thatsa fact. But the term has been twisted into a popular euphamism to disquise the fact that the Latin word means “human, living, individual”. “Fetus” now means “A simple clump of unorganized random cells of tissue.

              • Hey, Sam I Am, there was a time when medical experts thought that the fetus was nothing but a lump of tissue, but today we know so much more about what goes on in the womb that we actually know when life begins. Abortion has been politicized and is still morally wrong. Just as there once was a government that legalized the mass murder of Jews, our government of today has legalized a form of murder that has killed more human beings than Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung combined. Those who refuse to see this are just fooling themselves to appease their consciences.

  5. The purpose of gun control has nothing to do with reducing homicides or crime. The purpose is to disarm the left’s political enemies to allow future control.

  6. The best way to save lives and reduce gun deaths by disarming criminals is still jail, or the morgue.

    • “The best way to save lives and reduce gun deaths by disarming criminals is still jail, or the morgue.”

      Criminals are not the issue; it’s the normals who pose a threat. Criminals using firearms is just the cost of living in a free society.

        • “I think you don’t know the difference between a free society and a malfunctioning society.”

          I think you missed the gag.

      • Society is not free if self protection is reduced to calling 911 or running. Police can’t be there in an instant, assuming the opportunity to make a phone call is available. Many can’t run or run fast enough and staying and fighting is out of the question for many due to age and health issues.
        If the left spent as much time and effort on reducing criminal activity prosecuting criminals and incarcerating criminals, all of society would be safer.

        • “Society is not free if self protection is reduced to calling 911 or running.”


          But, if you don’t rush your reading, you may see something you didn’t expect.

        • If that day ever comes, when all guns are banned and all law-abiding citizens are unarmed. The criminals will then be bold enough to kick in the door of your home and do to you and your loved ones whatever they wish. This is only pure common sense because when the guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will be armed.

      • “Criminals are not the issue; it’s the normals who pose a threat.”
        This sentence is what inspired my comment.
        If normals are people other than criminals, then I believe my comments are relevant.
        Short response, criminals should be the issue and normals do not pose a threat unless they (normals) begin committing crimes.

        • “If normals are people other than criminals, then I believe my comments are relevant.”

          Nah. You missed it. Who says “normals”? Who says ignoring criminal activity is just the cost of doing business?

          It’s called mockery, ridicule, snark.

        • Yes, my apologies, I don’t recall ever using normals or seeing it before now. Also, this did not seem to jive with your comment made at 17:45 and I read both(17:45 & 17:47) several times.
          Now I know why I had to add normals to my dictionary………..have a good week.

        • That’s the dirty secret about D views on law-abiding gun-owners; D’s might speak the phrase but presume that they aren’t actually law-abiding.

          • “D’s might speak the phrase but presume that they aren’t actually law-abiding.”

            Indeed. Law abiding gun owners are a suspicious lot, no telling when they will just go off and ruin your day at the cinema. Have a few drinks, and they will tell you that anyone who should want to go about with a gun are exactly the ones who shouldn’t be allowed to own one.

  7. The only way to stop the murdering is to kill the people who are doing the murdering. Anything less is just the utopia of people who live in safe neighborhoods. Or they are delusional people who live in dangerous neighborhoods.

    • Don’t fool yourself. In that humans have been murdering each others for millennia, nothing anyone can do, other than eliminating humans all together, will stop the murders.

  8. Stock up, brothers and sisters, stock up well with firearms and ammo. Under the Biden and Harris administration, the 2nd Amendment will be gone. They are going to sign orders to take away our rights to keep and bear arms under the constitution. DON’T QUIT BUYING FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION. ARMED AMERICANS ARE PROTECTED AMERICANS FROM THESE CRIMINALS THAT ARE NOW RUNNING THE GOVERNMENT. We cannot let our guard down under any circumstances with these corrupt politicians that are now in power.

  9. The gun control advocates do not care about facts. They just don’t like guns or the people that own them.

  10. At this point in time the medical establishment as a whole has lost the trust of most Americans. The medical leaders are politicians at heart, not scientists or doctors. The fact that doctors as a whole have not risen up and decried their actions makes each doctor culpable a little bit as well.

    I wouldn’t trust the medical establishment as far as I can throw it, and trust me on this, I’m a doctor.

    • liljoe,

      One of my college professors used to refer to the syndrome as the “myth of omnicompetence” – “I’m a doctor, so I am equally qualified to opine on issues of law, sociology, physics, politics, and economics” (lawyers are PARTICULARLY susceptible to this neuropathology).

      We are now taking counsel of “environmental” advice from a learning-disabled Swedish teenager with obvious personality issues, political advice from late-night “comedians”, and “science” advice from politicians. We are SOOOOO f***ed!!!

      • I predict that the Democrats will do an end-around run on the 2nd Amendment. They won’t do an outright ban on guns because they know they can’t. But, they will tax ammunition, high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles and maybe handguns too. They will make it too costly to own these weapons and their accessories. The Supreme Court with the blessings of Chief-Justice Roberts will let them get away with this just like the Obama Care monetary penalties were allowed as long as they were called taxes.

  11. Dem cities are skewing the numbers to the criminal side, because they disarm the law abides! Fact no fiction!

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