Over the years I’ve had my share of connections with people who have committed suicide by gun. In many of the situations it is inconceivable that the person really needed to take such a drastic measure, even though it probably seemed so at the time. But, as the experts will tell you, one of the tragedies of suicide by gun…as opposed to other methods of suicide attempts…is that death by gunshot is almost always immediate, and there is little chance of reversing the decision.
I heard on NPR today that there are 87 deaths a day in America in which guns are used as the method of suicide. Another source I read calculated that more than half of the 36,000 suicides in America every year are by gunshot. That’s 18,000+ suicides by gun. Those statistics are staggering.
My history with suicide by gun began with my favorite uncle when I was 12 years old, and went on to include a teen at age 15, a decent young man in his 30’s with an alcohol problem, a police officer who had a powerful impact upon the teens in his town, and an Episcopal priest friend who had a remarkable relationship with his people. There were others with whom I was not as personally involved. Each of them was more than a tragedy, in that they were good people who were going through a difficult experience and couldn’t find a good solution. Having a gun readily available allowed them to make a choice which was incapable of being reversed.
We watch the terrorists in the Middle East who blow themselves and others up with suicide belts and scratch our heads trying to understand how religious fervor leads to such a horrible outcome. Gunmen, some of them teenagers, choose to enter public buildings and murder movie goers, students, or public employees before shooting themselves to death and we wonder what could have been going through their minds at the time. Some are cases of unresolved mental health issues, but others are people who have shown no signs of mental health.
The common component is the availability of guns, either by personal ownership or by “borrowing” a gun from a parent or other person, sometimes stealing it.
Suicide by guns is too often a taboo topic in families. In the case of my uncle’s suicide by shotgun it was easier to talk about his having “a plate in his head” from military service. But after that, no one in my family had a gun in their house, and hunting became a pariah for family members. I never held a gun in my hand until I was 72 years old. It was our family’s reaction to the horror of my uncle’s tragic death.
I have no solutions to offer in this blog, other than those that are too simplistic to be viable. I’d love to see personal ownership of guns banned in America, but it isn’t going to happen. I keep looking at stories from other nations where guns are reserved for police officers and military personnel. It makes a lot of sense to me, and I fail to believe that our “founding Fathers” would disagree in the 21st century. This isn’t the simplistic life they knew in the 18th century.
The horse is no longer in the barn. It would be almost impossible to force him back into his stall at this point.
Image Photo: Randomhistory.com