Firearm Suicide in DC

This blogger has been researching statistics for presentation to the District of Columbia City Council in relation to their bill B20-170 to require insurance for guns.  Some of the figures are striking.  Firearm homicide for DC over the 10 year period 2001-2010 is over 5 times the national average but firearm suicide is one third of its national average.  This means there are over 15 times as many suicides per homicide nationally than in DC.  Part of this difference is no doubt demographic.  Suicide rates vary dramatically by race, age and gender.  But the non-firearm suicide rate per 100,000 persons in DC is 75% of the national average and the firearm suicide rate is only 32% of the national average.  That difference is probably due to the scarcity of guns in DC even with the large illegal gun problem. If this difference had not existed then there would have been an additional 142 firearm suicides in DC during the 10 year period.

It’s fair to conclude that DC’s strict firearm laws are saving about 14 lives a year from suicide, but would an insurance requirement have a substantial part of this effect in places where firearms are common.  Suicide researchers generally think that most suicides are impulsive and that substitution of means is uncommon.  This is an area where removal of the restrictions on firearm data gathering and research is very much needed.  Insurers requirements for safe storage can make a large difference.  Many informed public health experts believe that even things as small as separate storage of ammunition and keeping guns unloaded will make a substantial difference.  A person who keeps his gun at a range or shooting club rather than at home in order to get a lower insurance rate is far less likely to take an impulsive but irreversible and tragic action with it.

The figures in the table all concern deaths by firearm unless otherwise labeled.  They are totals for the period 2001-2010 and are taken from the CDC’s WISQARS system.  Rates are per 100,000 population and are not age-adjusted.

Intent DC US DC Rate US Rate
All Intents 1,453 306,946 25.18 10.21
Accidents 16 6,739 0.23 0.23
Suicide 109 175,221 1.89 5.79
Homicide 1,311 119,246 22.72 4.01
Legal Intervention 13 3,325 0.32 0.11
         
Accidents/Homicides 0.012 0.057 0.010 0.057
Suicides/Homicides 0.083 1.469 0.083 1.444
         
All Suicide Firearm or Not 352 338,043 6.1 11.38
Non Firearm Suicide 243 162,822 4.21 5.59

One thought on “Firearm Suicide in DC

  1. Funny how you only look at one side of the ledger. How many lives would be saved if people could easily carry and train with firearms for self-defense, thus dropping the murder rate? How many fewer people would commit suicide if we stopped treating them like children, unable to care for themselves, and to always rely on some other god-like “professional” to take care of their problems? If people are treated like adults, and trusted to act like them, then they tend to rise (or sink) to expectations. Tell them they can’t be trusted with guns, because only professionals can have them, then you are telling them they are helpless and hopeless, and you are implicitly imbuing guns with magic talisman-like properties, the supernatural ability to be good in the right hands and bad in the wrong hands. People turn to the supernatural all the time (such as religious faith) to solve their problems. Strict gun control doesn’t prevent suicide – look at Japan, for example – but it DOES add to a person’s sense of being at the mercy of fate. Never a good thing for a depressed person.
    If it can save just one child’s life, shouldn’t all parents be able to easily carry a gun for self-defense in high-crime areas (such as DC)?

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