Thursday, March 18, 2010

Josh Sugarmann on Glenn Beck on Gun Suicide

Josh Sugarmann wrote an interesting article posted on HuffPo about guns and suicide. There's nothing new here, but it sure is short and sweet and convincing. What do you think?

It's not surprising that when Glenn Beck felt suicidal, the means he envisioned to end his life was a handgun. The success of a suicide attempt is dramatically influenced by the lethality of the means chosen. Firearms are by far the most lethal means, and handguns are the most common firearm used in suicide. The vast majority of people who kill themselves with a handgun aren't more suicidal--they just had the bad luck to have access to the most efficient suicide tool available. However, Beck is so confused by inconvenient facts that just three months after his "jarring" experience he can falsely offer the absolutist mantra that guns save lives. Period. The result? Glenn Beck as an object lesson on the link between gun availability and suicide as seen in this new VPC YouTube video.


  1. Legitimate question here: is there any studies that show that suicide is any lower in countries that have gun control? Maybe I'm wrong, but I would imagine they would just move onto the next efficient method. Will Josh Sugarmann be crowing for automobile bans once everyone starts gassing themselves in their garage instead?

    Speaking of Josh Sugarmann, do gun control advocates feel that they are getting their money's worth with this guy? I bet he sits back and laughs at his good fortune every time his paycheck arrives in the mail.

  2. RuffRidr, in answer to your query: no. There are no studies that I am aware of that show that, and your supposition appears to be correct. When guns are not available, they will use another method.

    Suicide tends to be a cultural thing, and industrialized nations tend to have fairly static numbers year after year, while less industrialized nations are slightly more sporadic, from what I recall. But, by and large, it is cultural.

    Japan is a horrible example of suicide for all intents and purposes, for the reasons Mikeb pointed out in his post above, and for the reason that in Japan, if a father kills his wife and three children then commits suicide, it is recorded as 5 suicides. Clearly, this is not what happened, and anywhere else in the world it would be viewed and recorded as 4 homicides and a suicide.

    Japan is in a world all its own when it comes to the issue of suicide, but AR's point does have some validity in the argument of guns and suicide.

    In Japan, guns are highly restricted, and not widely available, yet suicides still happen with great frequency (greater frequency than any other industrialized nation, IIRC--but this is partly due to the recording method I mentioned).

    In other words, having access to guns doesn't increase suicide, and restricting access to guns doesn't decrease suicide.

    Suicide, while certainly tragic, has nothing to do with guns.

    Suicide, like any other subject, is too complicated to nail down with one sure-fire solution, like taking guns away. As England has proved, reducing access to guns did not change the rate of suicides at all. It only changes the means by which those determined to kill themselves did so. What's next, a ban on Tylenol and tall buildings? How about we just make it against the law to kill yourself?

    As Sugarmann correctly points out, guns are the most lethal (and therefore effective) means.

    Then he goes and blows it by stating that the vast majority aren't more suicidal, just unlucky enough to have chosen the method most likely to end their life. Huh?!?? As if they didn't have access to a gun, they would be fortunate to have to choose a less lethal way to end their life? Isn't the act of ending one's life decidedly lethal to begin with? Isn't that the point of suicide?

  3. "The level of gun ownership world-wide is directly related to murder and suicide rates and specifically to the level of death by gunfire."

    'International Correlation between gun ownership and rates of homicide and suicide. Professor Martin Killias, May 1993.

  4. Other studies about the relationship between firearms ownership and homicide-suicide are
    Cukier and Sidel (2006) The Global Gun Epidemic. Praeger Security International. Westport.

    And Gun Violence: The Global Crisis
    (IANSA report 2007)

  5. Suicide has nothing to do with guns, but guns have everything to do with a polite society?

  6. Shrimp said " Japan, if a father kills his wife and three children then commits suicide, it is recorded as 5 suicides."

    I didn't know that. It would mean the "high" number of suicides is not as high as it seems. Interestiing.

  7. "The level of gun ownership world-wide is directly related to murder and suicide rates and specifically to the level of death by gunfire."

    Wow, that's just stunning. And I'm more likely to find ice cream in a grocery store than a hardware store.