Guns and Depression

Megan McArdle ventures on to the topic of guns with what I generally think is common sense:

If suicide is indeed a temporary impulse, then having an extremely deadly means of self-destruction close at hand is likely to increase the percentage of successful suicides — and indeed, that’s exactly what Tabarrok and Briggs find. So people who have had major depressive episodes in the past might be well advised to avoid gun ownership or put their guns in the care of a trusted friend. And folks who have recently gone through a horrible life event (job loss, bad breakup or the death of a loved one) would be well advised to get the guns out of the house until they’ve recovered from the blow.

Of course, I think this is a highly individual thing. A difficult life event would not itself be a reason for me to remove the guns. I have gone through what most people regard as the most difficult things in life. At age 20 I lost a parent after a horrible six year battle with cancer. I’ve been through the loss of a job and six months of unemployment. I’ve been through break-ups. I’ve found myself in what could be regarded as depression.

Nonetheless, I’ve never once contemplated killing myself, and have a hard time understanding why people would think that’s an answer. But I still have a standing order in with family that if I start going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, either the combination to the safe is to be changed, or the guns are to be removed. There are medical conditions that can happen outside of depression, albeit rarely, that could have an impact on mental and emotional stability. I am not a naturally impulsive or unstable person, but I’ve still had the discussion.

UPDATE: A great point in the comments “But…… Leaving your guns with a trusted friend can land you in prison for the unlawful transfer of firearms!” Yep, if certain people have their way when it comes to “background checks” there won’t be anyone you can leave your guns with. You’re damned either way. That’s the point.

9 Responses to “Guns and Depression”

  1. Arnie says:

    Your wisdom continues to impress me! I should do that with my lock combinations also!

    My sincere condolences over your loss of a parent. I lost my dear Mother to complications from West Nile last January; I wept openly then, and find myself tearing up as I type this. But, like you, I still want to live!

    My deepest respect, Arnie

  2. MrPickle says:

    But…… Leaving your guns with a trusted friend can land you in prison for the unlawful transfer of firearms!

  3. Andy B. says:

    I personally don’t believe that suicide is “impulsive,” in the sense that it is an impulse that comes out of nowhere and is not contemplated before being acted upon. I believe that once it has been contemplated, then it is possible that someone will act on it impulsively, at an instant. So, it seems to me that rather than disarm yourself just because you’ve had reversals and/or are feeling dejected, it makes more sense to disarm yourself if you are honest enough to admit you are at some level contemplating suicide.

    But, should removing weapons be even close to your top priority in that case? I remember reading of a theory that many of our unexplainable automobile accidents result from people committing impulsive suicide, when all it takes is the impulse and a flick of the steering wheel to do it. It could explain those head-on collisions or crashes into bridge abutments on clear, dry roads, and there would likely be no life insurance quibbles that might come with obvious suicides.

    So, if just feeling down is enough to take precautions, don’t drive, don’t go up on tall buildings, don’t walk across bridges. . .and possibly last, take the time to remove your guns.

    • Patrick H says:

      Yeah, suicide is rarely- if ever impulsive. People who have depression and who have contemplated suicide do it over years- maybe even longer. Its not the fact that the gun is there makes them decide to do it at that exact moment- its just the easiest thing to do. People have many ways of killing themselves.

      But I agree, these people shouldn’t have guns. But the question is A) how to identify those people, B) provide them with due process, and C) not affect those who aren’t like that.

      That’s very difficult.

      • Arnie says:

        Well said, Patrick H!

      • Andy B. says:

        “But the question is A) how to identify those people, B) provide them with due process, and C) not affect those who aren’t like that.”

        Here are two articles from my alumni magazine that I thought were very good on the subject of, what do we do when we think we have valid indicators of someone being a potential criminal, or violent?

        The Anatomist of Crime.

        Where to Draw the Lines?

        Both contain some very Orwellian ideas. The second includes some pretty good (also Orwellian) future fiction. Both address potentials that are very real.

    • Greg says:


      I did twenty years as a FF/Paramedic and saw lots of over dose and car accident suicides over the yrs. The reason for them was that as a last thought they were thinking of “taking care of the ones left behind” Can I prove it? No and no one will since they do not leave a note, that would defeat the act of hiding the suicide so the life insurance pays. If you should leave your guns with a trusted friend who then becomes a felon what about cars and drugs? A person takes a med that makes them drowsy, they get confused, can’t remember if they took their meds and take a second or third dose and stop breathing, happens all the time. Was it an accident: most times it is ruled as such for the sake of the family’s feelings. The anti-civil rights gang are deluding themselves on the suicide by gun issue.

      • Andy B. says:

        “they get confused, can’t remember if they took their meds and take a second or third dose and stop breathing. . .”

        Thanks for relating your experiences. I always value it when people do.

        There was a time — maybe there still is — when the above quoted scenario involved doctors, too. No one really knows how my paternal grandmother died, back in the 1920s, but one (disputed) version is that she got a double dose of morphine, from two different doctors who diagnosed severe chest and abdominal pain as a gall bladder attack. Then she died and that was that.

  4. mikee says:

    Suicides by firearm are more often successful than other means.

    Removing one means of self-murder leaves a world of others available. It is my body, my choice, right?

    I have never lived in a house that did not have more than enough under-the-sink household cleansers, common but poisonous landscape plants, and hardware items from rope/wire to cans of gasoline to allow any real attempt at suicide to succeed. Suicide is an act of will, not so much one of means.

    When they stop the existence of oleander, or eliminate all the Clorox in the world, or make all prescription drugs safe in all quantities, then they can come for the firearms.