Thank you so much for the response, Rose.
The statements I made about women’s suicide rates with firearms come straight from the reference study. They found that a ten percent increase in firearm ownership rate among women would correspond to an increase in firearm suicide rate of 0.4 per 100,000, but a corresponding decrease in non-firearm suicide rate of 0.4 per 100,000, for a net result of no change in the overall suicide rate. At a population level, access to the firearm didn’t impact the overall problem in women, it just provided a more convenient method. The original study is fascinating, and there’s a link to it in the article.
It’s important, I think, to remember that population level statistics are not applicable to individual cases. I knew one women who took her life with a firearm. In the wake, I helped her family pack her belongings in her bedroom, where she did the act. It was a transformational experience for me, one I won’t forget. I do not know if she would have taken her life by another method if the firearm wasn’t available. I think it would be inappropriate for me to speculate, both to her, and to her family. The math is applicable at a population level only, but when we talk about policy, we need to frame policy around population level results, not individual results.
Later you make the argument that asking depressed men to give up their guns would make their suicide rates go down. According to your logic, why wouldn’t men just choose another method?
Again, that’s born out in the mathematics shown in the study. A ten percent reduction in firearm ownership rate among men corresponds to a 3.1 per 100,000 reduction in firearm suicide, but a 1.6 per 100,000 increase in non-firearm suicide. So by their analysis, some men do choose another method, but not all. Somewhere around half would choose another method, while the other half wouldn’t lose their lives over a hasty decision. This may be because severe emotional mood swings in men take a different form than severe emotional mood swings in women. It may be that women enter into the act of suicide in a more calculated way, and men enter into it in a more impulsive way. It may be something else. Whatever it is may be related to the fact that suicide rates among men are triple that of women. I don’t know how someone would go about proving that explicitly, since the act of suicide erases your ability to interview them and ask. It’s a very difficult thing to study at an individual level because the act itself erases the most important source of knowledge about it.
How are you accounting for all of women’s *failed* suicide attempts with pills, etc.?
I’m not. I’ve thought a lot about that, and I’m not sure that a failed attempt at suicide is necessarily a problem at all. It may act as a wake up call for the person to seek the treatment they need. In the end, this article is one of a series of articles about firearm policy, and focuses specifically on “gun deaths” as reported in the media.