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Column: Suicide prevention would save more lives than gun control

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columnist Rob Port2 / 2

Whenever there is a high-profile tragedy involving firearms, the national debate turns to gun control.

That debate includes a lot statistics about gun deaths, but here's one statistic you probably didn't realize: Most gun deaths in America are suicides.

According to a report from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, hardly a bastion of sympathy for gun rights, roughly 60 percent of deaths resulting from the use of a firearm are suicides.

Of that total, about 79 percent are white men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the roughly 121 people who commit suicide in America each day, about 93 of them (or about 76 percent) are men.

That there could be such a silent epidemic of male suicide in this country with so few people talking about it is a subject worthy of more scrutiny, but that's a topic for another column.

The point, for our purposes today, is that most deaths from gun violence do not result from mass shootings, though they certainly get the most attention. Most gun deaths aren't even homicides resulting from things like gang conflict or domestic violence.

Most gun deaths are self-inflicted.

Some of you who are anti-gun, or at least in favor of increased restrictions on gun sales and ownership, might be tempted to argue that guns promote suicide. That the presence of guns in our homes as a relatively easy tool for self destruction might tip someone thinking about hurting themselves over the edge.

The data isn't on your side. According to the World Health Organization, in 2015 the United States ranked 48th in the world in suicide rates, well behind countries like Sweden and Finland and just ahead of France.

If more guns means more suicides, why doesn't the world leader in gun ownership rank higher in suicide rates?

The presence of guns inspiring suicides is as dubious an argument as the idea that the presence of guns inspires crime.

The reasons why people kill themselves or others are complicated, but they usually have little to do with access to a gun.

Which, in turn, means that restrictions on guns are going to accomplish very little when it comes to saving lives.

A lot of people say they want to do something about gun violence. The most common form of gun violence, by a country mile, is suicide.

How about, instead of going down the rabbit hole of complicated and esoteric public policy aimed at the futile endeavor of restricting guns and gun accessories, we elevate the issue of suicide to the prominence it deserves?

If we took some of the resources and funding we devote to harassing law-abiding gun owners and devoted it to suicide prevention, we could probably save more lives than any gun control policy ever would.