As a run-up to the Fourth of July Americans typically buy beer, BBQ meats and fireworks. This year, as so many have become overwhelmed by the anxiety and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, Americans are buying guns at a record pace.
Make no mistake, more guns equal more suicides.
This is not an attack on citizen’s Second Amendment rights so, please, hold the scolding emails. This is a wakeup call intended for those gun owning households in which someone is struggling with emotional and/or financial burdens. Their deep depression could spark suicidal thoughts. Right now, more than ever before, it is urgent to keep firearms safely locked up.
Latest government figures show that more than 48,000 Americans killed themselves. Some 23,000 became distraught enough that they used the household firearm to end their pain. This year is anything but typical, of course, so experts predict the 2020 suicide toll will be higher. Much higher.
The first reason, according to the non-profit group Everytown For Gun Safety, is that there are now millions more guns in American homes. Gun sales from last March to this March went up by nearly 5.9 million, a shocking year-to-year increase of 80%. And get this, during March, April and May of this year another 1.9 million guns were purchased. This country has never seen such a spike in gun sales – ever.
Another Everytown report, this one analyzing historic death data from the Great Depression of the 30’s and the Great Recession of 2008-10, mapped a tragic rise in the suicide rates as unemployment increased and the economy shrank. This is exactly what is happening today. There is no reason to think that grim suicide trend won’t continue in 2020.
“Based on historic precedent,” the Everytown report concluded, “the US risks a 20 to 30 percent increase in firearm suicides, costing the nation an additional 5,000 to 7,000 lives—about 20 more per day—in 2020 alone.” Translated: some 30,000 Americans with a handy gun in the house are expected to take their own lives this year.
Since the Everytown For Gun Safety figures were put together we’ve also been exposed to the upset of unchecked civil unrest that has unfolded in cities across the country. Our national psyche has been further traumatized by the mealy-mouthed response of elected officials to the looting, arson and tearing down of historic monuments. At a time when the country sorely needs strong leaders to step forward to restore the peace what we get, instead, are never-ending scorched-earth, blame-game political battles – or worse yet, silence from our so-called leaders. For many citizens, their sense of well-being and safety have been shattered amid the growing trend to dismantle or defund police departments. No wonder civilian gun sales have skyrocketed! We have reached a point where many of us now feel unsafe in our own country.
During this time of homebound isolation emotional and physical problems multiply. Millions are struggling with the loss of their jobs and the resulting financial struggles. Domestic violence and child sexual abuse has increased and many have turned to alcohol and drugs to try to cope. This instability spawns the kind of despair and hopelessness that breeds suicidal thoughts.
The National Institute of Mental Health agrees that firearms are the most common method used in suicides. Men – between the ages of 25 to 65 – are at the highest risk. Women in that same age group also use a gun to kill themselves but much less often.
The American Association of Suicidology promotes research and works on suicide prevention through public awareness programs and training for professionals and volunteers. The Association’s CEO, Colleen Creighton, says, “Putting time and space between someone who is experiencing a suicide crisis and their firearm” is the best preventative step possible.
No, this is not an attack on gun ownership or the constitutionally protected right of citizens to keep firearms. This is a call to gun owners to be ever more vigilant, to recognize those who may be suffering. Relatives, neighbors, friends, those for whom all hope seems lost, those who are living in potentially dangerous and emotionally wrought situations for which there looks to be no escape. They could be looking for the final solution.
Don’t let that include your gun.