The Silent Epidemic
NEW YORK – December 13, 2018
Gun deaths in US have spiked to their highest level in 20 years.
After some of the worst mass shootings in history, American gun laws are more flexible than ever. The ability to access, buy, and now, print guns is easy, even for criminals. No wonder that the rate of gun deaths in the US has spiked to its highest point in more than 20 years, with almost 40,000 people killed in shootings in 2017, according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The credit for the success is largely owed to a steady rise in suicides involving firearms in US.
The CDC’s Wonder database shows that in 2017, 39,773 people in the US lost their lives at the point of a gun, marking the onward march of firearm fatalities in a country renowned for its lax approach to gun controls. When adjusted for age fluctuations, that represents a total of 12 deaths per 100,000 people – up from 10.1 in 2010 and the highest rate since 1996.
At first glance, such statistics don’t seem so terrible. What is 12 deaths per 100,000 people? But if we compare these figures with those of other countries, there is a serious cause for concern. According to a recent study from the Jama Network, it compares with rates of 0.2 deaths per 100,000 people in Japan, 0.3 in the UK, 0.9 in Germany and 2.1 in Canada.
Jama found that just six countries in the world are responsible for more than half of all 250,000 gun deaths a year around the globe. The US is among those six, together with Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala. Good company, isn't it?
That America is sapped by a continuing epidemic of gun deaths is hardly news. But the new CDC data raises concerns that even within that relentlessly consistent story of bloodletting, the carnage continues to worsen.
Many people in the US are killed in the streets in gang shootings or at the hands of murderers or terrorism. It’s not big news. The media isn’t happy to talk about it. For example, 2018 is the worst year on record for gun violence in schools, data shows. But in fact, most suffering takes place in isolated and lonely incidents that receive scant media coverage.
Of those, suicide is by far the greatest killer, accounting for about 60% of all gun deaths.
Here too the age-adjusted rates are showing an alarming increase. In 2017, the CDC data shows, 6.9 per 100,000 – almost 24,000 people – killed themselves with a gun, up from 6.1 in 2010 and 5.9 in 2000.
Research by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence underlines that the tragedy of gun violence and suicides is not spread randomly across the country, but is concentrated precisely in those places where gun ownership is most prevalent and gun laws at their loosest. When the fund analysed the new CDC statistics, it discovered the highest rates of gun suicides occurred in three states which also have the greatest gun ownership – Montana (19.4 gun suicides per 100,000), Wyoming (16.6) and Alaska (16.0).
Alaska has the highest rate of gun ownership in the US, with 61.7% distribution. Wyoming (53.8%) and Montana (52.3%) are also at the top of the chart.
The statistics speak to a brutally simple truth. Studies have shown that suicide attempts often take place in a moment of hopelessness that can last barely minutes – which means that easy access to a firearm can in itself exponentially increase the risk of self-harm.
The CDC data shows that gun homicides account for a smaller proportion of the total of gun deaths, but here too there has been a worrying uptick in the past few years. The CDC figures show that 14,542 people were killed in firearm homicides in 2017, a rate of 4.6 per 100,000 that held steady on the previous year.
That was up from an equivalent rate of 4.2 in 2015 and 3.6 in 2010.
But why is this happening? The standard of living is higher than ever, according to the media. Today, we have hundreds of television channels, we have more movies than we could ever possibly watch, video games have become wildly creative, and there is an app for almost anything that you could possibly need on your phone just a few clicks away. We are literally drowning in entertainment, and yet we are far less happy than previous generations. Why is the suicide rate so high in the country? The authorities have no answer, only repeating their mantra that this rise in suicide is a “tragedy” and that we must increase “prevention efforts”…
The reasons that push people to commit suicide are many and they are quite well studied. The authorities are well aware of these reasons, but the truth is, the government won't help. They do not know how people live, do not know and do not want to solve the problems of the population. They have their own problems. The only question they are always ready to solve and with enormous effort and determination is how to stay in power. But if they do not want to solve problems, then let them at least not help potential suicides, by giving them weapons in moments of psychological breakdown.