Since the Newtown shooting, Slate has tried to record every gun death in America:
Why it failed:
Suicides, it turns out, are this project’s enormous blind spot. Most every homicide makes the local paper, even if in large cities these stories are sometimes relegated to a mere news brief. Accidental shootings are usually reported upon, as are shootings by law enforcement and incidents in which civilians kill in self-defense. But suicides are mostly invisible. And the fact is that suicides make up 60 percent or more of all deaths by gun in America. In our interactive, misleadingly, only about 10 percent of recorded deaths were deemed suicides by our crowdsourced categorizers.
Justin Briggs and Alex Tabarrok examine the connection between gun access and suicide:
Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, and limiting access to guns during those formative, sometimes unsteady years can have a real effect on suicides. In Israel most 18- to 21-year-olds are drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces and provided with military training—and weapons. Suicide among young IDF members is a serious problem. In an attempt to reduce suicides, the IDF tried a new policy in 2005, prohibiting most soldiers from bringing their weapons home over the weekends. Dr. Gad Lubin, the chief mental health officer for the IDF, and his co-authors estimate that this simple change reduced the total suicide rate among young IDF members by a stunning 40 percent. It’s worth noting that even though you might think that soldiers home for the weekend could easily delay suicide by a day or two, the authors did not find an increase in suicide rates during the weekdays. These results are consistent with interviews with near-fatal suicide survivors, who often say their decision was spontaneous and who typically go on to live long lives.
And the psychic, emotional and human pain of suicide is immense. Perhaps because it fits so easily into a libertarian rubric that no one is hurting anyone but themselves it evades scrutiny. But its toll remains a huge one – and one dramatically affected by the easy accessibility of guns.