Men’s Rights activists like to remind people that men commit suicide far more often than women.
But that’s not because men are many times more miserable than women. In fact, women are far more likely to attempt suicide than men. They simply don’t succeed at it as often as men do.
The reason for this is simple: men tend to choose more lethal methods of suicide than women. And that often means guns. Indeed, most gun deaths in the US are the result of suicide, not murder.
Could we reduce the number of suicides by making guns harder to get hold of? A new study in the American Journal of Public Health suggests the answer is yes.
Researchers Michael D. Anestis and Joye C. Anestis from the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg looked at the effect four different kinds of gun control legislation — waiting periods, universal background checks, gun locks, and open carrying regulations — had on suicide rates, finding that
[e]ach law was associated with significantly lower firearm suicide rates and the proportion of suicides resulting from firearms. In addition, each law, except for that which required a waiting period, was associated with a lower overall suicide rate. Follow-up analyses showed a significant indirect effect on overall suicide rates through the proportion of suicides by firearms, indicating that the reduced overall suicide rate was attributable to fewer suicide attempts, fewer handguns in the home, suicide attempts using less lethal means, or a combination of these factors. States that implemented any of these laws saw a decreased suicide rate in subsequent years, whereas the only state that repealed 1 of these laws saw an increased suicide rate.
This isn’t the only study suggesting that restricting access to firearms could dramatically lower suicide rates.
A 2013 study by researchers Justin Briggs and Alex Tabarrok at George Mason University found that in the United States from 2000 to 2009, each “percentage-point decrease in household gun ownership leads to between 0.5 and 0.9 percent fewer suicides.”
And the effect has been seen in other countries as well. Australia saw an 80 percent reduction in suicides by firearm after adopting stricter gun control laws and instituting a large-scale gun buyback program in the 1990s; there was no rise in suicides by other means.
This last finding may strike some as the most puzzling one. If someone is intent on killing themselves but no longer has a firearm in the house, wouldn’t they just attempt suicide in some other way? Surprisingly the answer is generally “no.”
As Briggs and Tabarrok noted in a Slate piece explaining their findings,
contrary to the “folk wisdom” that people who want to commit suicide will always find a way to get the job done, suicides are not inevitable. Suicides are often impulsive decisions, and guns require less forethought than other means of suicide—and they’re also deadlier.
MRAs who are serious about reducing the number of male suicides — not just using male suicide stats as a cheap debating point — need to start talking seriously about gun control.
Here’s a video from VOX with more information on the subject: