Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Guns In Our Lives" Interview on OPB -- Part I

Saturday morning there were more random shots fired in my neighborhood, the second time in a week in my normally-quiet part of town.  So it was with renewed interest that I listened to a debate between Ceasefire Oregon's executive director and the president of the extreme pro-gun Oregon Firearms Federation on Oregon Public Broadcasting this Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, Oregon Public Broadcasting's radio show "Think Out Loud" featured an hour-long segment on "Guns In Our Lives."  In case you missed it, you can find it at THIS page, where you can hear the broadcast, download the .mp3 file, and read comments from listeners on both sides of the issue.

The show was roughly in two portions.  The first portion had the host, Emily Harris, talking with a local gun dealer, Michael Knoetig, and Trisha Whitfield, from the ID Services of the Oregon State Police.  The second part was much more interesting, but more on that later, including in a second, follow-up post.

Knoetig talked about his gun shop, his feelings about the importance of Conceal Carry, which his main focus is on for sales of weapons (he mainly just echoed the argument that society has bad people and the cops are too far away to help you, thus you should arm yourself at all times), and comparisons with his native Germany.   Regarding Knoetig, I felt particularly drawn to two parts of the conversation.  The first was about growing up with guns in Germany.  Conceal Carry is not allowed there, gun regulation is very strict.  Hunting is allowed, but is highly regulated.  Knoetig would compete with target shooting as a teen, but the gun had to be unloaded until arriving at the event. 

It is interesting to note that, as he mentions, the crime rate is lower in Germany.  According to 1998 data (the latest I can find that compares both Germany and us in the same year), Germany had a death by firearms rate of 1.57 per 100,000 population, compared to the U.S., which had a rate of 10.2.  Murder rates in general, including non-firearms, is five times greater in the U.S. than in Germany.

Another interesting point from Knoetig:  In Oregon, there is NO requirement that the buyer of a gun have any training whatsoever, unless they are wishing for a conceal carry permit.  That's right, like most states, you don't need even a minute of training, even safety training, to purchase a firearm in Oregon.  When Emily Harris asked Knoetig how he reacted if a buyer seemed inexperienced, he merely answered that he encourages them to take one of his free classes.   But he sells guns to them anyway.  My thought:   Why not?  It's not HIS problem if they are endangering themselves and others, right?  Who is he to question that right?   He's only the source of deadly weapons, is all. 

Trisha Whitfield from Oregon State Police next outlined the requirements for background checks.  I can't say there were any real surprises.  Basically when a gun is purchased, sellers like Knoetig have the buyer fill out a form.  The form asks ID information like social security number, driver's license number, whether they've been convicted of any illegal activities, abuse drugs, arrested for DUI, and so forth, and a thumbprint.  The form information is phoned into the Oregon State Police ID services unit, and the thumbprint is FAXED (and we know how reliably the resolution is for faxes!).  The information is fed into the available databases, including NICS.  98% of calls are returned with an approval, delay, or deny within only 2-5 minutes.  A few are delayed due to slowness in record retrieval or some mix-up (and can be delayed even for months).  Denial could be due to actually admitting to abuses or crimes, or if the database indicated convictions or mental illness.  Whitfield emphasized that the 2-5 minute review is based only on the databases they access, which may not be updated sufficiently, or the buyer's own self-reporting.  In 7 months of business, Knoetig has never had a denial.  No details were given about requirements for Conceal Carry, except that it is handled by the Sherriff's Association and can vary from county to county.

And then the show gets much more interesting:  an interview with Ceasefire Oregon's executive director, Penny Okamoto, and the president of the Oregon Firearms Federation, Kevin Starrett.  Ceasefire Oregon works to prevent gun violence in Oregon through advocating for stricter legislation of firearms and community education about the dangers of firearms.  OFF is a hard-line, pro-gun group that bills itself as "Oregon's only no compromise gun lobby" which seeks to fight or repeal existing gun control legislation, including opposition of criminal history background checks or the retention of records of those checks (examples).

The host, Emily Harris, starts off the conversation by asking about each of their reactions to a shooting that occurred a few days before in Oregon City, where a 13-year-old boy shot and wounded his friend in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun in an apparent accident, after the gun had been left, loaded and unlocked, where the boys could access them after a duck hunt.  The response, I feel, highlights what is one of the greatest differences between the pro-gun and pro-control sides:

Starrett:  "My reaction was the same as when I hear about teenagers dying in terrible car wrecks or someone passing away in a house fire.  It's a terrible thing."  He mentions how it appeared to be an accidental discharge, then added, "It's a terrible thing when a person is hurt with a power tool."  Then mentioned how his heart went out to the family.

Okamoto:  "It was completely heartbreaking, especially because whenever you're dealing with guns, every shooting is preventable.  I would have to say that this was in Oregon City.  Had this been in Portland, Mayor Adams' ordinances ... are already in effect.  The gun owner would have been charged [referring to the Child Access Prevention ordinance].  Ceasefire Oregon right now is working on a Preventing Access to Minors Bill that would be statewide."  (CAP laws have been proven successful in reducing deaths in other places).

This is a very telling comparison between the way the two sides see the same sort of tragedy.  Note that Starrett's reaction indicates no difference in his mind between deaths from gun violence and deaths from fires or power tools, even when children are involved.   Okamoto's reaction indicates that gun deaths are separate from the others.  Regulation to make parents more responsible might have helped prevent the tragedy.

Emily Harris then goes on to mention one comment on their blog comparing gun deaths to deaths by cars, suggesting "car" and "gun" could be used interchangeably in conversation.

Starrett once again sees little difference:  "I think there is an important parallel here.  Cars kill far more people than guns do, and yet if on the many occasions, daily occasions, when we hear of people being killed in car accidents, many of which were caused by gross negligence by people or teenagers drinking or that kind of thing -- in the wake of a story like that, you would never invite a representative from AAA to come on and defend car ownership."  Later adding, "You wouldn't see me coming and demanding that Penny give up her driver's license."

Okamoto responded, "It's a parallel that is pulled out only when it's useful.  Guns are made to kill people.  Cars are not.  Cars are basically for transportation.  Sometimes people do die in car accidents.  One of the reasons that the number of people dying in car accidents has decreased is because so many people have worked on making cars safer and making people safer drivers.  The gun lobby doesn't work on making guns safer. ... There's no license, no registration, no requirement for training [for guns].  Anyone can buy a gun from anyone in Oregon.  You don't have to be a licensed firearms dealer."  Then, as a further analogy, she adds, "And there's an interesting parallel that wishes to be made.  If we put children in car seats when they're in cars, then why can't we have some type of law that prevents children from gaining access to weapons, or more preferably, makes gun owners more responsible.  If you have a gun, you own it, and some child accesses it, you're responsible.  You have to be a responsible gun owner."

I'm certainly with Okamoto on this one.  Pro-gun extremists extol the virtues of their weapons for their ability to protect them against bad guys in their homes and on the streets.  This is because guns offer better "stopping power" to kill an attacker quickly and efficiently.  It's what handguns in particular are designed to do.  That's why pro-gun folks carry guns instead of other weapons, like knives or bats.  They are deadly.  They are MADE to be deadly.  And advertisements in gun magazines make no beans about it.

Yet any time the discussion turns to the deaths of innocents, suddenly they describe gun deaths as no different from any other sort of death, like from fires or power tools or car wrecks, and the guns themselves go from being described as deadly efficient weapons to some seemingly innocuous lump of metal which happens to be deadly in the wrong hands.  It hearkens back to the tired, nonsensical slogan of the NRA, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," as if the gun or lax gun laws had nothing to do with it. 

But we on the gun control side see gun deaths very differently.  Every death is preventable.  Unlike cars, which have regulations on both the vehicle manufacturers and the drivers to reduce deaths, as well as licensing and mandatory training, guns are loosely regulated, with few such demands for safety.  Odd, given that death is their primary purpose.  100,000 people are shot each year, 33,000 of which die from their wounds.  3,000 of those deaths are children.  Commonsense legislation, like strengthening background checks and child access prevention laws, can reduce deaths.  Such things are actively opposed by organizations like OFF and the NRA.

My next post will discuss roughly the second half of the interview, including the discussion around one caller's experience of another child shooting involving her sons.

To be continued....  (See NEXT POST)


  1. Great post as usual, Baldr! I happened to hear this interview though I usually don't care for the show. Why is the nra so frightened about making gun owners responsible for their OWN weapons?

    Also, a nasty ad hominem attack by that starit guy against Okamoto about driving. Starit tipped his empty hand by doing that because people only do ad hominem attacks when they are losing the argument.

    And that's what the gun lobby is: losers.

    Remember folks: this is the U.S. of A. not the U.S. of (nr)A.

  2. Wonderful. This is a thorough expose about the differences between the two worlds of the gun guys who conveniently ignore solutions and choose to obstruct anything that might actually keep people from shooting each other; and the world of gun control advocates I love the logic of those who have a gun, knowing it would mean death or serious injury but wnen death or serious injury occur, let's not talk about them. Let's just divert attention from the guns. They are no more dangerous than a lamp or a knife!

  3. "Yet any time the discussion turns to the deaths of innocents, suddenly they describe gun deaths as no different from any other sort of death, like from fires or power tools or car wrecks"

    That's because they aren't. They are just as dead, and death by power-tool is just as preventable as death by gun. Or swimming pool, or whatever.

    I agree that the car comparison is faulty - cars are not a constitutionally protected right.

    Also, when comparing murder rates between the US and Germany (or other countries), I just learned an interesting tidbit. I believe the US calculates its murder rate by the number of people killed. Many other countries, particularly European countries, calculate their murder rate by murderers convicted. That is to say, if no one is convicted of murdering someone, then that someone is not counted among murder statistics. This certainly skews the numbers.

  4. True, Heather, every death is a tragedy, and most of those are preventable in some way, too. But many of those other means of death are either less likely to kill (power tools), less prevalent (drowning), or regulated to reduce deaths (cars).

    It's a good point about murder rates and convictions, but I don't know if that is true for Germany's numbers. Even if skewed, though, I doubt they would come anywhere close to ours.

  5. @Baldr: Everything you've quoted from Okamoto and what you've said in this blog post applies equally to any dangerous item, children, and accidental deaths.

    They may all injure or kill.

    They are all the responsibility of the parent to ensure their children's safety.

    Laws already exist for child endangerment and negligence, we don't need MORE laws making it MORE illegal to leave firearms/saws/poison/swimming pools/any other dangerous thing in the reach of children.

    Where you're incorrect and I've disproven this before, is that killing is not the only purpose of guns. It is the FUNCTION of a firearm or any other dangerous item that lends them to be used for that purpose.

    A circular saw is designed to cut through material with its rotating blade - The saw cares not if that material is wood, or a child's hand. It's not the SAW'S responsibility to make sure it doesn't cut children, it's the parents' responsibility.

    A car is simply a couple of tons of metal, plastic, glass, and rubber designed for the function of moving people or cargo from one place to another. The car itself cares not if a child is in its path, or if the car strikes an object, what happens to the people inside. The CAR isn't responsible for making sure the children inside are safe, the PARENTS are.

    The function of water is.. well, to be water. The function that water performs in a child's lungs is to prevent exchange of oxygen needed to survive. The water doesn't care, and the water is not responsible for making sure the child doesn't inhale it, the PARENTS are.

    A gun is designed for the function to load and fire a projectile with a certain degree of accuracy and reliability. The gun cares not if the projectile is fired at a piece of paper, a clay target, or a child's head. It's not the gun's responsibility, or the gun manufacturer's responsibility to make sure it doesn't shoot a child, it's the parents of the child or the person handling the gun.

    The only difference between these dangerous tools and objects is in YOUR head, (and in the heads of others like Okamoto) with a bias against firearms and bigotry towards those of us who disagree with your ineffective solutions.

    As far as Germany's murder rates, What proof do you have that the low murder rate is due to gun control? What about other factors?


  6. Orygunner, you are only reinforcing my argument. Yes, a gun is an object which can be misused, and it is the user to blame. You can't blame an inanimate object for crime (as you so blatantly accuse us of). But you can limit its availability to those who would misuse it. That is the purpose of gun control legislation, and you can better hold the owners more responsible for deadly choices.

    As to your last question about Germany, I'm not getting into your disruptive argument to debate all the many factors that lead to murder. What the data suggests is that, for any reason, including gun violence, their murder rate is lower and their gun murder rate is lower.

  7. So why do gunners run away from honestly discussing the lethality of guns? They use cars and tools to distract rather than take an honest look at a deadly situation.

  8. Now nra/off wants to let marijuana users have concealed carry permits. HB 2789 is sponsored by Kim Thatcher who was honored less than one year ago by the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance (OAA) with the "Public Safety Champions Award". How do pot-smoking gun users make the public safe?

    Sounds like someone was smoking something somewhere.

    Here's the text of the bill:

    House Bill 2789
    Sponsored by Representative THATCHER 
Summary: “Authorizes issuance of concealed handgun license to person convicted or diverted for certain marijuana offenses in another jurisdiction, if conviction or diversion is equivalent to conviction or diversion that does not operate as bar to obtaining license under Oregon law.
 Expands class of marijuana convictions that do not operate as bar to obtaining concealed handgun license to include misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana that was committed before possession of less than ounce was made punishable solely by fine under Oregon law.”

  9. @Eumenides: What the heck is Rep Thatcher thinking? I think I'll nickname this bill as the "Stoners with Guns" bill. Seems appropriate. Sorta equivalent in my mind with the idea of allowing conceal carry into bars. Drugs/alcohol don't mix with deadly weapons!

  10. @Baldr: Mind if I use that name as well? BTW, Lil Kim also got $1500 from Philip Morris. Check out the terrible grammar and errors on her website! She says she's for edjumaction, though, so...

    Hey, look in the sky! Is that Eddie Eagle? Joe Camel? No it's Kim Thatcher carrying a load for Kevin Mannix and nraoff.

    Good luck, Lil Kim. You're going to have to change your name to Lil Hypocrite (even it that's harder to spell).

  11. @ Baldr & eumenides,

    You discriminate against people who go to bars and who have smoked marijuana as not being worthy of exercising their rights, like some lower-class citizens.

    Let me be clear - DRINKING alcohol and guns don't mix. BEING HIGH on pot and guns don't mix - I would absolutely support laws prohibiting carrying a firearm in public while intoxicated or stoned.

    However, that's not the same as allowing concealed carry in places that serve alcohol. Many peaceably armed citizens go into bars and other places that serve alcohol (like pizza parlors and restaurants) and DO NOT drink. Here in Oregon it's perfectly legal, and I do it frequently.

    As long as a person is sober and carrying their firearm legally and responsibly, What reason is there they can't carry anywhere they choose? So what if a person smokes pot - if they're not buzzed, what reason is there they can't carry their firearm in public?

    Give me some real logical reasoning, not moral opinion, please.


  12. @Anonymous said...
    "So why do gunners run away from honestly discussing the lethality of guns? They use cars and tools to distract rather than take an honest look at a deadly situation."

    I'll honestly discuss the lethality of guns. They are a dangerous, deadly tool, causing death and injury if being used for the purpose of killing or harming others, or if they are being handled negligently.

    That's really no different than any other tool, to varying degrees of danger of course. Yes, firearms are used to kill or wound intentionally more than any other single tool. They are also used to successfully defend people's lives and safety more than any other tool - A firearm is chosen for either of these uses BECAUSE a gun is capable of such deadly force.

    That's the reason police officers carry guns and not saws. That's the reason there are hundreds of thousands of defensive gun uses per year and no studies on defensive car uses.

    Guns are lethal - whether that's used for good or bad purposes is up to the user, and it's easy to prove guns are used far more for good than for evil here in the US.

  13. Actually Baldr, drowning is a MORE prevalent way to accidentally die than firearms, not less. Far more children die each year in swimming pool accidents than in gun accidents, and drowning in general claims three to four times more lives than firearm accidents.

    Nobody I know has had a gun accident claim one of their children, but sadly, one of my friends lost their toddler to their swimming pool. And statistically, that is the case as well--owning a firearm is less dangerous for your children than owning a swimming pool.

    My point is really just that what makes lethal accidents of all kinds so terribly tragic is specifically the fact that MOST accidents are 100% preventable in some way, not just gun accidents.

  14. Guav, I agree, nearly all accidents are preventable in some form.

    When I first mentioned drowning as less prevalent, I was comparing to gun-related deaths of all sorts. Based on CDC data from 2007, out of 31,224 fatal shootings in America, 3042 children, age 0-19, died from gunfire (not counting law enforcement shootings). Also according to the CDC, in 2007, there were 3443 drownings, with some 689 being of children, with a possible addition of 99 children in boating accidents (for a total of 788). Thus, shooting deaths of children were far more prevalent.

    If, however, you limit the scope only to accidental shootings (and, *wrongly*, ignore homicides and suicides), then there would be 138 deaths of victims age 0-19. So, in that limited scope, it would be true that drownings are more prevalent.


  15. Guav, I am truly sorry to hear of the death of your friends' child! My deepest sympathies go out to you and your friends.

    Toddlers die in many horrid ways. In the U.S., many agencies and people work to prevent all deaths like drownings, shootings, burns, falls, etc. No one wants to stand by idly when information or action could save the life of a child in any situation. It doesn't mean that one form of death is more heinous than the other. They are all shattering.

    I like to think that we all try to lend a hand to make life better when and where we can. For Baldr and Ceasefire, gun death and gun violence are what they feel they can change.

    I support Ceasefire, MADD, the March of Dimes and many other organizations that strive to save the lives of young people (all of us!) from needless deaths.

    Again, my deepest sympathies to you and your friends.

  16. Baldr: I assumed you were just referring to accidents, since that's the only way such a comparison makes any sense at all, and I thought that was what was being discussed at the time (in response to the accidental shooting referenced in the original post, that started the conversation).  

    Accidents, homicide, suicide, etc. are CAUSES of death. Within each cause of death, you have different METHODS of death—drowning, firearms, overdose, etc.

    It makes sense to compare accidental drownings to accidental shootings.
    It makes sense to compare knife homicides to gun homicides.
    It makes sense to compare overdose suicides to firearm suicides.

    But it makes no sense to compare the number of drownings (which are inherently accidental in nature) to the total number of firearms deaths from accidents, homicides and suicides lumped together.

    I don't "ignore" homicides and suicides, I just discuss them separately from each other because homicide, suicide and accidents have completely different sources and motivations behind them and thus require different solutions.

    The way I see it, homicide rates can be addressed by macro solutions, and legislation is a part of that (although we'd probably disagree on what types of legislation). Suicide prevention on the other hand can pretty much only be addressed on a case-by-case micro solutions—direct intervention when you suspect someone is suicidal for example—I don't see how legislation can play a part in that. And accidents, sadly, I don't think you can really do much about—you pretty much have to accept that a certain percentage of human beings, sadly, are going to accidentally die—they will crash their car, fall out of windows, drink drain cleaner, drown, shoot themselves with "unloaded" guns, walk out into traffic without looking, etc. You can't legislate accidents out of existence.

    The 30,000+ firearm deaths a year consist of suicide, criminal homicides, accidents, legitimate self defense and police shootings. It makes no sense to lump all deaths by gun together and treat it as a single CAUSE of death, rather than a method used within each different cause of death, and it's ludicrous to think that there's a one-size-fits all solution to all of them ("GUN CONTROL!").

    "in America, 3042 children, age 0-19, died from gunfire"

    When I think "child," I (and certainly most people) think of small children. You say "child" and everyone thinks of an innocent 5 year old playing with a wooden train or something. I would not actually call a 19 year-old drug dealing gang member with a lengthy criminal record a "child" for descriptive purposes. 

    Eumenides: Thank you. It was shocking and horrible to me at the time, but now that I am actually a parent of a 17 month old toddler, I cannot IMAGINE what they went through. I literally just cannot imagine... I don't know what I'd do.

    "For Baldr and Ceasefire, gun death and gun violence are what they feel they can change."

    Yeah, and I just don't get it. I don't understand why they are more concerned with gun suicide than any other type of suicide. I don't understand why they would consider successfully lowering firearm homicide rates a victory if the overall homicide rate remained the same. I don't understand why a toddler accidentally shooting himself is more tragic to them than an toddler drowning.

    I am interested in lowering overall homicide rates. I am interested in lowering overall suicide rates. I am interested in lowering overall accidental death rates. I am not interested in lowering just one subcategory of them, and I am not interested in pursuing "solutions" that do not work (there is, to date, no conclusive evidence whatsoever that gun control lowers homicide, suicide or accidental death rates as a whole).

    Their approach just makes no sense to me.

  17. In 2007 the number of children (1-14 years old) killed by firearms (all causes) was 303 if you move the age range to 1-18 the number jumps to 2,065 so let's see where the big jump happens. 16-18 is 1,552 so MOST happen from 16 to 18

    now let's break it down black = 784 white=725 doesn't seem bad till you realize that blacks make up only 12.9% of the population.

    So half the gun deaths in the age ranges where most children die are accounted for by 13% of the population.

    I'm not a sociologist but if you REALLY want to do the most good in preventing kids from dying your time would be well spent trying to figure out why young black men are shooting each other.

    I'm willing to bet that if there was a way to remove drug and gang related shootings from this age range you would see a dramatic drop.

    So if you really want to reduce gun violence for kids you now know your target demographic where you can make the most real difference.

    Source... I used the CDC's selector at

  18. 18Echo, it's true, statistics show a proportion of African American deaths that are abnormally high. There are many reasons, I'm certain, including gangs, and anyone who wishes to focus on reducing gang violence is to be commended. Is that what you wish to do?

    Interesting that many who comment on this blog accuse me of focusing too much on gun violence and not on violence in general (as if gun-related violence wasn't enough to deal with!), but if you wish to specialize further on gang-related gun violence, please do so.

    If you're suggesting ignoring the gang-related data in this statistic, I say no way. They are getting guns somehow, and not all victims of gangs are in gangs themselves. Both reasons are valid for consideration in reducing gun violence.

  19. No, not ALL victims of gangs are in gangs themselves, but most are. Most homicide victims also have police records.

    Violence is violence. Homicide is homicide. I'm not "deader" if I get shot then if I get stabbed or run down by a car, and it's not worse or more tragic.

    If you want to reduce violence and homicide, you focus on the things that make people resort to violence and commit homicides, not a single type of tool frequently used to commit those homicides. You focus on gangs and drugs, because those are a large segment of homicides, and they are the motivating factors behind the killings. If you get them to not wipe each other out, it doesn't matter if they have guns or not. But if you remove guns and not the urge to kill, you've accomplished little.

    That's why it makes sense to focus on gangs, but doesn't make sense to focus on firearms.

  20. Would you consider it a victory if we passed restrictive gun control legislation that suddenly halved the firearm suicide rate, even if the overall suicide rate remained constant (people started hanging themselves instead)?

  21. Disclaimer: Don't you dare take this out of context, the following statements are NOT my personal belief (I AM NOT a racist), it is purely to make a point.

    I firmly believe that eliminating black people from our society would have a significant positive effect on our violent crime rates.

    Now I find the idea of removing black people from our society extremely offensive, not just on moral grounds, but because it infringes on the rights of people. Not to mention all the other positive benefits that they do provide to our society. However, since it's proven that black people ARE dis-proportionally responsible for a higher share of violent crime, it WOULD be guaranteed to reduce violent crime.

    To even suggest such a solution shows obvious bias, prejudice, and even bigotry. To disregard any positive contributions to our society and only focus on the negative aspects of black people in our society not only blinds the person to any legitimate solutions, but is disturbing when they actually get others to believe in their faulty solutions.

    That's exactly how I see gun control advocates like Baldr treat guns and gun owners.

    My point is that just because something would be successful doesn't mean the cost (infringement on individual rights) is worth the perceived benefit, does it?

    Gun control is also an infringement on the rights of individuals. It's also a very poor benefit for the cost, especially since gun control has never proven to have any significant benefit to any society.


  22. Guav, halving the firearm suicide rate would very much reduce successful suicides overall. Consider the following data:

    Suicide attempts with firearms are much more likely to be fatal than attempts with other methods. More than 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal. In comparison, only 3 percent of attempts with drugs or cutting are fatal. (data from Miller, see below).

    "Someone dies by suicide in the United States every 17 minutes, for a total each year of more than 30,000. Few of us, however, are aware that 57 percent of those who kill themselves do so with a gun. This group includes about 60 percent of suicides of persons aged 25 years or under and 70 percent of those aged 26 or older." (Slabby)

    Miller, Matthew, David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael, "Firearms and Suicide in the Northeast," Journal of Trauma 57 (2004):626-632.

    A.E. Slabby. Suicide and Gun Control. Psychiatr Serv 52:999, August 2001.

  23. "halving the firearm suicide rate would very much reduce successful suicides overall"

    Are you sure of that?

    Australia is worth examining because following the the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, the government instituted sweeping gun control legislation, banning all semiautomatic firearms (rifles and handguns), including .22 caliber rifles and duck-hunting shotguns and spent half a billion dollars buying citizens’ newly-illegal guns from them.

    According to your logic, there should have first of all been a significant drop in firearm suicides, and secondly, a corresponding drop in overall suicides, since you apparently think that people without guns are too stupid to figure out alternate means of killing themselves.

    Let’s go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In their summary of the report Suicides: Recent Trends, Australia, 1993 to 2003, they state:

    In 2003 the most common method of suicide was hanging, which was used in almost half (45%) of all suicide deaths. The next most used methods were poisoning by ‘other’ (including motor vehicle exhaust) (19%), Other (15%), poisoning by drugs (13%), and methods using firearms (9%). This distribution was consistent with that of the previous few years. However, over the decade strong trends were apparent such as the increase in the use of hanging, and a decrease in methods using firearms. See Table 4 for data on broad groupings of method of suicide. [emphasis added]

    Let’s look at Table 4 where they directed us (Page 13 of the PDF$File/3309055001_1993%20to%202003.pdf). You will see that in 1993, 435 of the suicides in Australia were with firearms. In 1997, only 330 Australians killed themselves with firearms. By 2003, that number had dropped to 194! That’s an amazing decrease in firearm suicides.

    Yet in 1993, the total number of suicides in Australia was 2,081. In 2003, the total number of suicides was 2,213. So although the number of firearm suicides steadily declined over that decade, the total number of suicides remained basically the same, fluctuating between a low of 2,081 and and a high of 2,720.

    Remember, they basically banned firearms in 1997. And predictably, firearm suicides decreased. But more people started hanging themselves.

    Also, from our neighbors up north ... according to an abstract from the Canadian National Institute of Health:

    BACKGROUND: This paper examines the trends in youth suicide from 1979-1999 and the association with changes in the firearms act in 1991.

    RESULTS: Although the overall rates did not change from 1979-1999 in youth aged 15-19, there was a substantial change in the methods used. In particular, the rates of suicide by firearms dropped from 60% to 22% while suicide due to hanging/suffocation increased from 20% to 60% in this age group over this period of time.

    CONCLUSION: These results suggest a possible association between changes in the firearms act in 1991 and the methods used by youth to complete suicide. However, the overall rates of suicides did not change over this same period. These trends underscore the need for broader prevention interventions that do not solely focus on methods of suicide but rather, their underlying causes.

    In other words, people who truly want to commit suicide will do so, regardless of gun availability. And judging from other countries experiences with virtually complete gun bans, there’s no indication that people who are so miserable that they want to end their lives will not do so regardless of whether or not they have easy means to do so—just ask the Japanese.

    Your claim of "Less Guns = Less Suicides" appears to have no merit whatsoever.

  24. "Suicide attempts with firearms are much more likely to be fatal than attempts with other methods. More than 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal. In comparison, only 3 percent of attempts with drugs or cutting are fatal. "

    That doesn't take into account that many of those failed suicide attempts try again and succeed.

    Has it occurred to you that perhaps different people choose different methods based on how badly they really want to die? Someone who wants attention more than to really die cuts themselves, someone who sorta wants to die might eat an entire bottle of medication, whereas someone who really wants to die shoots themselves or jumps off the Empire State building. Maybe the failures vs. success rate has more to do with the actual desire to die than you think.

    I was recently reading a study that showed that the method used in an initial suicide attempt can predict the risk for a later successful suicide—those who attempted suicide by hanging, drowning, shooting or jumping were most likely to succeed on subsequent attempts as opposed to people whose first attempt utilized more passive means, such as gassing, overdose, cutting. That seems to back up my suspicion.

    There are many things that cause suicide rates to fluctuate slightly—they go down in times of war, and increase when the economy is bad, especially in recessions—but in general suicide rates in most countries (regardless of firearm availability) remain constant. There are certainly minor fluctuations, but overall, suicide rates generally look like flat lines, they don't correlate with rising and falling crime rates, rates of gun ownership, etc.

    From 1972 to 1995 the per capita gun stock in the US increased by more than 50% but during this same period, the US suicide rate was virtually constant—in 1972 the suicide rate was 11.9 per 100,000, and after this “arms build-up” the total suicide rate remained unchanged at 11.9 in 1995. In 2003 it was 11.0

    I believe we have the highest firearm suicide rate on the planet. But there are least a dozen countries with much higher total suicide rates than us—obviously lack of firearm availability is not preventing them from killing themselves, so I don’t know why it would be expected to affect our total suicide rates.

    As an additional side thought, do you support assisted suicide? I do. Suicide is tragic, but I do think that people actually have a right to kill themselves if they want to. We’re talking about suicide as if it’s something that happens to people instead of something that they purposefully do to themselves. You cannot legislate suicide away.

  25. Guav, that's quite the long comment. But I don't quite see your point. Yes, people may choose based on desire, and there are many factors that affects suicide rates. But the point I am making is that when guns are used, the rate of success if very high. Thus, they do not belong around suicidal or depressed people. Can they find other ways to commit suicide? Certainly, but those other ways often involve more painful or involved methods that will often make them change their mind (fear of heights with jumping, for instance, or difficulty drowning), whereas with a gun all you have to do is point at your head and pull a trigger, and death is instantaneous and painless.

    Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17.

  26. And yes, of course guns do not belong around suicidal or depressed people—many things do not belong around them—but that's not something you can legislate, it entails close family or friends who are aware of the issue removing such items from the home.

    That being said though, I assume it would be quite illegal for someone not licensed to possess or carry a handgun or firearm to take possession of the firearm and remove it from the home.

  27. Not sure why I had to nag you about it, but thanks for finally posting my comment Baldr.