Guns To Blame For Teen Suicide?

With a topic as controversial as guns, it depends on who you ask.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine recently published a study entitled “Household Gun Ownership and Youth Suicide Rates at the State Level, 2005–2015.” This study contends that there is a positive correlation between the increase in household gun ownership and the increase in teen suicide.

However, psychiatrist Robert B. Young, MD, observes in his article Do Guns Cause Adolescents to Commit Suicide that the media coverage of this study is unduly supportive.

Suicide is a complex problem. There are bound to be more firearms suicides in households that don’t lock up their guns. But this does not mean firearms cause suicide any more than vehicles cause single-car crashes (a category that probably includes significant numbers of unprovable suicides). And there are more drowning deaths in unmonitored bodies of water than when lifeguards are present.

However—and this is the big one—there is no evidence yet that controlling the availability of firearms is at all associated with changes in overall suicide rates. This is the most important finding about firearms and suicides. It suggests that, despite individual cases of preventable shooting deaths, on a population basis as many people will commit suicide by other means when one becomes less accessible.

In addition to this general dissent, Young also uncovers specific, fundamental flaws in the study, namely the broad definition of youth (ages 10-19) and the absence of gun ownership data (snapshot from 2004) for the same years as the suicide rate data (2005-2015).

Young:

Correlation does not equal causation. Certainly not when conflating America’s civilian gun ownership boom with adolescent firearm suicides.

Responsible research means using comprehensive data and letting the data speak for itself, regardless of the result.

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Comments

  1. The increase in suicides by teenagers is blamed on guns because they were the most available instrument at the time. Those who want to commit suicide will find a way to accomplish their feat.

    I am appalled at the carelessness of these parents in leaving a gun unlocked.

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