What do Mental Health Experts Say About Gun Restrictions?

A very interesting article in CNN that would seem to indicate mental health advocates aren’t entirely on-board with the Administration’s agenda:

As Swanson and his colleagues see it, gun ownership restrictions related to mental health are too broad and too narrow all at once. They capture a lot of people because of some contact with the courts or health care system, in some cases minor or a long time ago, who are actually at low risk of perpetrating gun violence. At the same time, they miss people who have yet to be diagnosed, adjudicated mentally ill or involuntarily committed, including people who are suicidal or have pathological anger, he said.

However much of what they propose I would find more unacceptable than the current status quo. For instance, I am steadfastly against restricting firearms because some people might commit suicide with them, something the article suggests would be a positive thing.

We’ve seen the gun control movement in recent years switch from an emphasis on crime to an emphasis on suicide, probably because crime has dropped to record low levels, and to be frank you can fundraise more easily from suicide victims. As the article notes:

Some observers say that talking more about suicides will change the focus of the gun control debate, in part by bringing a new demographic of victims into the discussion. Where often the victims of firearm-related homicide are young black or Hispanic males, nearly 80% of those who use guns to take their own lives are white men, according to the CDC.

They point to this study:

Our empirical analysis suggest that firearms regulations which function to reduce overall gun availability have a significant deterrent effect on male suicide, while regulations that seek to prohibit high risk individuals from owning firearms have a lesser effect.

Restricting access to lethal means has been identified as an effective approach to suicide prevention, and firearms regulations are one way to reduce gun availability.

No regulation of this kind, intended solely to discourage the exercise of an enumerated right, should ever be constitutional. I’m also just philosophically opposed to restricting access to dangerous objects because someone might kill themselves with it. That leads to a society that enfeebles it’s citizens, keeping them in a child-like state where dangerous things have to be kept from them by their parental figures (government) for their own good. Such a society may be regarded as kind, but it is not a free society.

13 thoughts on “What do Mental Health Experts Say About Gun Restrictions?”

  1. Is it just me, or does it sound like the gun control crowd is saying that Black Lives Don’t Matter?
    They want to push the suicide angle because most people shot to death are black males?
    They essentially are saying that they don’t care if blacks slaughter each, but because whites commit more suicide with guns lets try to stop that, right?

    And personally I don’t care if someone kills themselves, with whatever tool they chose, as I think it’s unconstitutional as well as gun control is. What you do to yourself should be none of the govt’s business.

    1. Any advocacy group needs money, which means they need donors. I don’t think the shift to suicide so much says black lives don’t matter, as much as it says green matters.

  2. Frankly, if someone wants it all to end, who are we to say no? Yes, suicide is tragic; but I believe people should have the right to determine for themselves when they’ve had enough.

    Besides, suicide rates don’t really decrease when firearms are restricted. Someone who is determined enough to pull the trigger, is determined enough to find some other way.

    1. I, for one, would like to do what we can to prevent suicides…but if we want to focus on preventing suicides, we shouldn’t focus on guns, but on how to recognize when someone is depressed and needs help, and how we could help people who are depressed realize that they could use help…

      What good is it to pat ourselves on the back for lowering gun suicides, only to have the numbers of rope and building suicides go up?

      It’s like being laser-focused on gun murder, and cheering that gun violence has gone down, while ignoring the overall criminal violence rate going up…

  3. Interesting that the gun control crowd is moving toward suicide prevention as a rationale for their agenda at the same time their ideological comrades are pushing for assisted suicide legalization. Which is it? Is suicide bad or good?

    1. Suicide is bad if you do it on your own, but if you can find a couple of doctors who will talk you into killing yourself, it’s good, because you’re getting help from the Professionals.

      Having said that, I can imagine the Brady Campaign creating an ad saying, “Feeling depressed? Do you want to leave behind this World of Sorrows? Don’t use a gun! Here’s a myriad of other ways to commit suicide, and none of them leave behind a mess!” and then celebrating when “gun deaths” go down…

  4. They are very inconsistent. On the one hand, you have gun grabbers boldly proclaiming that all us gun owners should hopefully be killed with our own guns. But then, when they get their wish, they decry the tragic loss of life from gun suicides. Which can only be solved by having armed men take away our guns, at gunpoint, hopefully killing most of us in the process. That’s beyond some sort of twisted circular reasoning, it’s like helical reasoning.

  5. Except that the share of suicides committed with firearms has been declining since the early 1990s, along with crime. In the 1990s about 63% of suicides were committed with firearms, it is now down to 50%.

    I am not really sure this is a new focus either. Gun control advocates has always talked about “impulsive” suicides.

  6. One of the things that disturbs me about this suicide angle of “gun violence”, is the insistence that guns are more thorough ways of killing yourself than other methods. Which is true, to be sure…but it ignores that some people *deliberately* choose a thorough method of killing themselves.

    I remember learning in psychology that women *attempt* suicide about three times as much as men do, but men *succeed* at suicide at about three times the rate that women do. The difference is that men tend to *deliberately* choose suicide methods that are final, while women typically choose “softer” methods, where they are more likely to survive.

    One statistic that’s thrown out is, “90% of people who attempt suicide wish they didn’t attempt it, and never attempt it again.” The problem with this statement, though, is survivor bias: we don’t get to ask the people who succeeded in committing suicide whether or not they are happy they succeeded. Interpolating is dangerous, because many of the people who attempted suicide did so with “less lethal” means…

    Come to think of it, we run into similar issues with comparing “gun deaths” to “auto deaths”. It does no good to observe that we have lowered auto deaths over the decades, and then ask why we can’t do the same for guns, because auto deaths are almost certainly accidents, which can be mitigated by encouraging safe driving, wearing of seat belts, and redesigning cars to protect passengers in crashes; heck, driving less (as we seem to be doing as a country right now) will lower deaths! Each suicide by gun, and each murder by gun, however, is a deliberate act; it’s very difficult to see how “safety regulation” is going to reduce these statistics. We would be much better off trying to figure out why people want to kill others, and kill themselves, and then try to change the culture so that people are less likely to want to do so…

  7. I read this article yesterday and had a thought: they’re basically saying that you can’t restrict the right to gun ownership of everyone with a mental issue (or history of a previous mental issue) just because of the actions of a few. You could re-write that article and replace every mention of a person with a mental issue with just person, and you get to the point we’ve been trying to make for years, which is that a small subset (EXTREMELY small) of gun owners may be likely to commit a crime, but leave the rest of us alone and don’t restrict our rights because of the actions of a few.

  8. “…you can fundraise more easily from suicide victims.”

    I would argue the opposite. At least for the successful ones.


      1. I knew that’s what you meant. If it weren’t such a serious subject, I’d have found it amusing, though.

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