As a run-up to the Fourth of July, Americans typically buy beer, barbecue 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 wake-up 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.
In a typical year, some 23,000 U.S. citizens become distraught enough that they use 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 nonprofit group Everytown For Gun Safety, is that there are now millions more guns in American homes. Gun sales from March 2020 to May 2020 went up by nearly 5.9 million, a shocking year-to-year increase of 80% from 2019 statistics. 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 '30s 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 nationwide. 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, we instead get 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 has 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 hardships. Domestic violence and child sexual abuse have 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 reports 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 guns 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.
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.
To find out more about Diane Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com. Her latest book, "Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box," is available on Amazon.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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