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What Americans don’t understand about gun control

What Americans don’t understand about gun control
October 26
13:31 2017

In 2015, more than half of the 44,000 people who committed suicide did so using a firearm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and people with access to a firearm in the home are three times more likely to die by suicide or murder than those without. However, public opinion has not yet caught up to these and other studies that show restricting access to guns lowers suicide rates.

The lack of education about gun ownership and suicide risk are a hurdle to prevention strategies, a study published on Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine found. In the study, researchers examined responses to the statement: “Having a gun in the home increases the risk for suicide.” Of the 3,949 persons who completed the survey, only 15.4% agreed that having a firearm increases risk of suicide. “The connection between guns at home and suicide fatalities can’t be understated,” said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign, an anti-gun violence nonprofit.

Public belief varied widely by demographics, according to the study: 1 in 3 health-care providers agreed having a household firearm increases suicide risk while fewer than 10% of gun owners with children agreed with the statement. What’s more, 20% of people who do not have guns in the household agreed with the statement while just 6% of gun owners agreed. Options for participants included “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neither,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree.”

The National Rifle Association, which spent more than $26.8 million on advertising leading up to the 2016 election, plays a role in the lack of public knowledge about the fatal effects of having weapons in the home, Brown said.

Gun advocates argue that suicidal people would ultimately find a way to kill themselves, regardless of whether guns are restricted, but states universal background checks saw a decrease of 0.29 suicides per 100,000 people from 2013 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. “That undercuts this notion that someone intent on committing suicide will eventually follow through on it,” Brown said. “We know it’s simply not true.”

For instance, the highest suicide rate among black men is among detectives and police officers (2.55 times), professions that also have access to firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (In a similar vein, white men in the medical profession who have access to potentially harmful pharmaceuticals are more likely to take their own life than the average population.)

“Despite strong empirical evidence that restriction of access to firearms reduces suicides, access to firearms in the United States is generally subject to few restrictions,” a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded. To purchase seemingly innocuous cold medications such as Sudafed, consumers must not only show photo identification, but also have the purchase logged in a database. In contrast, less than a dozen states and the District of Columbia require registration of some or all firearms.

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