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Guns, Suicide And Mental Health

Handguns and suicides is a growing concern.

Handguns and suicides is a growing concern.

Along with the rest of the nation, Massachusetts is engaged in a loud debate about guns, gun rights and how to reduce gun violence. Over the weekend, some 200 supporters of tighter gun control rallied at the State House. It came just one week after 700 2nd amendment advocates protested gun control legislation being proposed on Beacon Hill.

At the heart of the debate: how to keep guns out of the hands of people like Adam Lanza, who massacred 26 people, including 20 children, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The debate has focused on assault weapons, high capacity magazines and how to stop potential killers.

But relatively little is being said about the biggest cause of gun deaths in America: suicides.

Guests

Matthew Miller, associate professor of Health Policy and Injury Prevention at Harvard University.

Marylou Sudders, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Mental Health.

Toni Harp,  state senator from New Haven, Conn.

More

Boston Globe “The gun toll we’re ignoring: suicide”

Boston Globe “Mass. keeps mental health data from FBI gun checks”


Other stories from this show:

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  • Call_Me_Missouri

    I agree with your guest wholeheartedly.  I support laws that make mandatory that guns only be fire-able by their owners and laws that require that guns be stored at the Gun Club rather than in the home.

    What about Accidental Shootings?  Are there any studies going on about them?  There is no doubt that Suicidal shootings are a HUGE problem, I’d like to know how many Accidental Shootings there are every year and if they could be prevented through gun control / storage laws.

    And lastly, it seems to me that mass-shootings are, for the most part, Suicides at their core.  These mass-shooters almost always kill themselves and quite frankly it seems to me that the suicide was the point, and the mass-killing was to draw attention to their suicide.  There have been times when the person loses their marbles, kills a bunch of people when when they realize what they have done, and the consequences of what they have done, they kill themselves, but that is more rare then people who fully intended on killing themselves no matter how effective they were or were not at killing others first.

    • DJS

      Call_Me_Missouri, not sure what exactly you mean by “accidental shootings” since among firearm owners those events are referred to as “Negligent Discharges” since a fundamental firearm safety rule is to only point the firearm at something you intend to shoot. 

      The incidence of situations where a person commits a crime that will draw a lethal response from Law Enforcement is common enough that it is now known by the term “Suicide by cop.” It only reinforces the status of health care in general and mental health care in particular. 

      • Call_Me_Missouri

        I mean, a child gets a-hold of a gun and accidentally shoots his friend.  An Accidental Shooting.

        • DJS

          Are you from Massachusetts? The Commonwealth has a “Secure Storage” law that requires to be firearms to be securely locked unless under the direct control of the owner. 

          • Call_Me_Missouri

            I know they do, you’ve redundantly mentioned it already.  But having the law doesn’t mean that it’s being enforced.  Unlike, Animal Laws, where owning more than 4 Dogs allows a lot of Jurisdictions the right to warrant-less searches of your property… owning a lethal gun does not.

            Having a Secure Storage law that cannot be spot checked  without a warrant is kind of pointless, because it’ll only be enforced after someone has died.I love the new Liability Insurance idea.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            have these animal laws been upheld in court? where do they have that?  Thats absurd about as absurd as warrentless searches of gun owners homes. having to give up one right to exercise another? thats ludacris. all of the gun control proposals are “kind of pointless” because criminals wont follow them and they will only be enforced after someone has died

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          the gun should have been locked up- improper storage is not an accident. Both the child and the friend should have been given eddie eagle coloring books beforehand anyways. 

          • Call_Me_Missouri

            Improper Storage was not an accident, but I’m pretty sure most kids don’t want to kill their friends for real.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            well thats where education comes in right? we have sex education. gun education for young children is as simple as ” stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell an adult ” when you see a gun.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      people who want to kill themselves will. not having a legal gun handy will not stop anyone

      • Call_Me_Missouri

        Let me rephrase that so it’s more honest…

        People who want to kill themselves will try.  Not having a legal or illegal gun handy won’t stop them from trying.  

        Guns are 85% lethal and my guess is the only thing more lethal than that is a train…  removing / securing guns so that people wanting to kill themselves will have to jump in front of a train will very likely not lower the rate of trying to kill themselves but instead the rate of death that results from the suicide attempt and that is the point.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          unless you live in an area with buildings or bridges or ropes or pointy objects or cleaning products or buses a train is a safe bet for a suicide. people who want to kill themselves do, people who want to cry for help do suicide attempts.  in china there is an epidemic of young rural women drinking pesticides.  how will any changes in gun laws affect the actual problem which is people  killing themselves? who cares what means they use?

        • rfd05

          I believe you are wrong.  There is the odd person that will be so distraught that they will jump in front of a train, or some other method.  Many people couldn’t make themselves go in that manner.  Particularly teenagers.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            so you do not have to be that distraught to shoot yourself?

      • rfd56

        It depends on how long they have been thinking about it.  Sometimes suicide is an impulse that wouldn’t have happened without an immediate weapon handy.  A gun is the preferable way to commit suicide, due to it’s immediate and final result.  Another argument;  if the suicidal person doesn’t have a gun they will probably only kill themselves.  Not always, but most of the time.  With a gun they can take many with them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          yeah right because bridges and tall buildings are not readily available if a gun is not. Not too many people live after jumping off a building and i bet that number falls to zero  depending on how high the building is. Another argument;  if the suicidal person doesn’t have a gun they will probably only kill themselves.   It is a argument but a thin one that depends on a gun being the only way to “take many with them” and also assumes they don’t just obtain one illegally. Seems like a lot of women have decided to drown all their kids in the tub or by driving into a lake. Or the man who chopped his kids with a machete and set his house on fire while the social worker was outside. There are lots of ways to kill many people a gun is probably one of the least effective when compared to a truck bomb or an airliner.

    • Thinkfreeer

      Okay, “Missouri.” Thank you for providing some insight into the workings of the anti-gun mind. It is a strange place. In your first paragraph, you support making guns essentially useless, and requiring the expenditure of significant funds to make it happen. Presumably, you would not be willing to provide any of those funds. You would expect the gun manufacturers and gun owners to fund this protection of your safety, while removing the safety of the gun owner. Gun clubs are funded by their members. Most do not have secure storage facilities, which in your world would no doubt have to meet very stringent state issued requirements. Even if I accepted your recommendation, I can only shoot my gun, no-one else’s, and I have to store it at my gun club. This more or less implies that the only legitimate use of a gun is to shoot targets or game only at my gun club. I can’t try out someone else’s gun and they can’t try mine (as a matter of fact, I can’t try one at all until after I buy it, because it would have to recognize me and me only). Someone would have to make sure that I don’t leave with my gun (like, if I want to hunt deer in Maine). If I want my wife or son to shoot, they would have to have their own gun.

      Yes, suicides account for about 2/3 of all deaths by gun in the U.S. Of the 30,470
      firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2010, 19,392 (63.6%) were
      suicide deaths, and 11,078 (36.4%) homicide deaths (CDC statistics).

      According to the NCHS, and NSC, deaths due to gun accidents are the lowest ever recorded. The rate is just 0.2 per 100,000 population. There has been an 80% decrease in the rate since 1930. During this same time the U.S. population has more than doubled and the number of firearms has quintupled. Children’s deaths by gun accident have  decreased 90% since 1975. Today, it’s million to one odds of a child dying in a gun accident (no doubt you will insist on zero). In Massachusetts, we already have gun storage laws. But, the state is neither responsible for the safety of the people in my home, nor are they allowed to check on that, except when there is some probable cause of abuse or something. I can remove all of my smoke alarms, CO alarms, and handrails, and there isn’t a damn thing the state can do about it. Guess what? I am responsible for the safety of people in my home. Not you. Not the state. It’s education and attention to safety that works. And, if you want a handgun in MA, you have to take a full-day class, and store the gun locked, so that is partly enforced.

      No, mass murder by shooting is not mostly suicides. It is half (28 out of 56 shooters) (the other half appear to be angry people – maybe it would be a good idea not to make people angry). But, yes, a suicidal person can be a real danger to the rest of us. I’m not sure what your solution would be. Mine would be to prevent his suicide by shooting him myself (if I were there and he was shooting) (see also last paragraph, where I am responsible for safety at home). But there does seem to be a pattern that these suicidal shooters take their lives as soon as they are confronted by force. There is no indication that they killed themselves because of remorse, as you suggest (or imagine).

  • DJS

     Do you intend to have anyone on this program who knows anything about current firearms laws in Massachusetts? Bruce just called, opining that guns should have trigger locks and that gun owners should be required to have training. Massachusetts gun owners have been required to take a training course since 1998. Massachusetts has a storage law that requires firearms to be “Securely stored” by an approved trigger lock or safe. Both anti-gunners and pro-gunners don’t like to talk about gun suicides, which are over half of gun deaths.

  • DJS

    This program would have been much improved if you had someone on the show  who was aware of current requirements to own firearms in Massachusetts? A caller name Bruce called, opining that guns should have trigger locks and that gun owners should be required to have training. Massachusetts gun owners have been required to take a training course since 1998. Massachusetts has a storage law that requires firearms to be “Securely stored” by an approved trigger lock or safe.  

  • SJKaravas

    In listening to your program, the message I got was the typical victim cry for fear of the mentally ill being stigmatized.  If Ms. Sudders  bothered to look into state regulations, she would have realized that this has been addressed in Massachusetts.  A person who has recovered from mental illness who can produce a letter of recommendation from their physician handling this aspect of their health, can in fact get a license to carry a firearms. 

    The BIGGEST problem in Massachusetts is that any person who is hospitalized for mental illness in a private facility is protected by privacy laws.  This record is not shared with the state and therefore, it is not reflected on state databases when the police do their audits for issuing theses licenses.  Hence, if someone applies to carry a firearm and fills out the Massachusetts application answering NO to “have you ever”been hospitalized for mental illness” and they have been hospitalized for years in a private institution for mental illness, they can actually obtain a license to carry a gun.  And there is NO statute of limitations on this question.  Even if you know a person who has perjured themselves by answering this question falsely, you are out of luck.  A barrage of attorney’s will protect this persons information.  This NEEDS to be rectified immediately and in fact is what our Governor is trying to do.

    By the same token a person who has overcome mental illness can obtain a license to carry with a physicians recommendation.  

    If it were Ms. Sudders child who was killed by a mentally insane individual who obtained a gun via these methods, I would like to see how sympathetic she would be to this “stigma” or labeling.  And at the end of the day, if private mental institution databases were forced to submit information to make them accessible to state officials for gun control, these people would not even dare apply.  Please tell me where this stigma materializes?  The last time I checked all this information was confidential with the police department.  I don’t believe you are forced to where a sign on your head that says I am mentally not fit to carry a firearm.  You are simply declined.  When will this nation stop enabling people by consistently playing this “victim” card.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      so you are ok with forcing people to wave their HIPA rights so they can exercise their gun rights?

      • SJKaravas

        Forcing people to wave hippa rights does not allow them to exercise gun rights.  It will restrict mentally ill people treated at private institutions from obtaining gun licenses.  What I am saying is that if you don’t force people to wave their HIPPA rights for gun screening, we are acting irresponsibly by allowing the mentally ill to carry guns and setting ourselves up to more exposure and loss of lives.  

        • SJKaravas

          more clarification – if you are treated at a non-state run facility for schizophrenia it will never show up in a police check for gun license. Even if you know someone is mentally ill and has been hospitalized, the institution because of privacy laws cannot release that information to police.  

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            “the institution because of privacy laws cannot release that information to police” right so if someone wants to apply for a gun liscense they must wave their privacy right?s why should anyone have to do that in order to exercise their right to gun ownership?  do you have any examples of ” exposure and loss of lives.  ” from the scenerio you described? you relise that everyone must declare under legal penulty if they have ever had mental a problem right? so if they are depraved enough to violate that law what makes us think they would not be depraved enough to buy a gun on the street? these kind of privacy intrusions and violations of medical records will just stop people from seeking treatment and will do nothing to prevent undesierable people from getting whatever arms they desire.

          • SJKaravas

            We are discussing the mentally ill not criminals.  That means that they are not capable of making sound decisions for themselves.  And yes I do have an example.  An example of a person who has been and still is a threat to me who is bipolar and intentionally lied on an FID application and boasts a handgun on themselves everyday.  A bipolar schizophrenic who was institutionalized in a private hospital perjured their application and now I sleep with one eye open and an alarm on my home 24/7.  Literally a ticking time bomb and not even the police can do anything.  We have given up privacy at the airports for reasons of security because of 911.  Why is this any different.  There is a price for freedom and peace of mind.  And if we have nothing to hide, then why shouldn’t there be complete transparency when it comes to mental health.  I find people who are against transparency normally have something to conceal.  Regarding your comment on preventing these people from seeking mental treatment, do some research.  Most people diagnosed with bipolar stop medication and don’t want to be treated anyway. That was simply a ridiculous comment.  And most probably don’t even seek a license to carry a gun.  I was a member of NRA and strongly believe that we do have the right to bear arms with two stipulations – that we are of sound mind and that automatic weapons be banned (with the exception of military, police and possibly gun clubs).  

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            1. if the person is  threatening  you you should get a restraining order, the court will take his gun.
            2. an FID will not allow the purchase of carry of a pistol so if you are aware of this crime you should report it to the athorities.
            3.If you are aware of a perjury you should report this to the police he will be arrested and his gun will be taken away.
            4. perhaps you should get a gun and some training, if you are eligable, unless you think a siren will stop him from harming you. that is your right
            5.”Regarding your comment on preventing these people from seeking mental treatment, do some research. Most people diagnosed with bipolar stop medication and don’t want to be treated anyway. That was simply a ridiculous comment.”
            so if according to you most do not seek treatment then either they do not recieve treatment at all or they recieve it against their will.  if they do not recieve treatment there will be no record at all even if you invade everyone’s privacy or they will be committed against their will and then they will not be allowed to own a gun under the current system. maybe you should start using the system we have before you complain its it does not work. no law will will help if you don’t use it

          • SJKaravas

            Obviously you have never dealt with anyone who is mentally ill.  Restraining orders mean absolutely nothing and in fact they can trigger an event.  It has been reported and nothing can be done because the records to their private institution are  private – a wall lawyers protecting them.  The only recourse is a restraining order.  If they were in a state database, there would be no gun to worry about.  And filing a restraining order would really guarantee me one of those bullets in my head.  Who will raise and feed my three kids then?  Life is not so black and white – full of grey.  If he

            FID – Firearms Identification is what dictates what you are allowed to carry, buy etc.  It is what the police department issues to you as your license.  It is exactly an FID that allows you to purchase – depending on what you apply for.  Who on God’s green earth told you otherwise?

          • SJKaravas

            Your comment “if you invade everyone’s privacy or they will be committed against their will and then they will not be allowed to own a gun under the current system. maybe you should start using the system we have before you complain its it does not work. no law will will help if you don’t use it”
            This has to be the most ignorant thing I have ever read.  “they will be committed”  Are you serious.   Police do audits just to check for mental health history in the issuance of an FID.  THEY DON’t commit people.  

            THE SYSTEM – obviously you haven’t figured out yet that it doesn’t work since you don’t know what an FID card is.

            Off this post – I don’t have time to teach you the ABC’s

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            maybe you should read the whole sentence next time. maybe you should use the myriad of tools provided under the current system.  If you are in mass I know the system very well and an FID does not allow the purchase or carry of handguns.  I did not say the police commit people. being committed against ones will generates a record for the database wheather or not one goes to a private facility after. 
             My statement was based on you saying that “Most people diagnosed with bipolar stop medication and don’t want to be treated anyway” i don’t know if thats true or not but you said it.
            Why should we change the system to attempt to help you when there is help provided already but you dont want to use it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            what state do you live in? in mass a FID does not allow you to purchase or carry a pistol. Again, if you won’t use the protection provided by the system what good will changing the system do?  Since you recognise that the police can not protect you why not protect yourself? Situations like you are in are why people ger firearms for self defense.

          • SJKaravas

            One final note – what you are recommending is completely discriminatory.  State run mental facility databases are open to police audits for Firearms ID check.  Private facilities for the more fortunate are not.  So technically what you are telling me is that folks with money are entitled to privacy but those without money who are forced to go to state run facilities are not?  Interesting.  No money, no privacy. I guess we are not all created equal at least not in the state of Massachusetts.  

          • DJS

            Not only that, but there is a current example of a mentally but wealthy person who avoided being adjudicated as such: Adam Lanza

          • Anne G.

             Why do you say that people with a psychiatric diagnosis are not capable of making sound decisions for themselves? Do you believe that? Does anyone really believe that?!

        • Anne G

           You write as if you believe that having a mental illness is the same as being a dangerous person. Is that what you believe?

      • rfd05

        Yes.  Just like you need an eye exam to drive.  Guns are not for everyone.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          an eye test at the RMV does not force you to sign any of your privacy rights away or give the police access to your private health info

  • rfd56

    I live in a gun obsessed area and personally knew many people who died by gun shot, whether accidental or suicide.  A portion of the suicides would have happened regardless, but many of them died because a gun was handy and they were upset.  Sometimes they take others with them, and that probably wouldn’t happen as much either if a gun wasn’t so handy.  The accidental guns deaths I know about were heartbreaking and  preventable.  They were all young people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      In massachusetts you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun legally, where do you live?
      To me its like alcohol just because kids get drunk and kill themselves driving (i’ve known several, one that killed a whole family in a crash) i dont blame the fact that alcohol exists or is legal for their deaths or the deaths they caused. I dont blame the car.  i blame the immaturity and stupidity of those individuals. i do not understand what is so unique about guns that we go so overboard making foolish laws that do not really affect anything but legitimate gun owners who are trying to do things right because they focus on the gun and not the behavior thats undesirable. We have a gang and crime problem fueled by drug prohibition in the united states. The last time we ended prohibition the murder rate dropped 99%.  We have a much better chance of solving our problems as a society if we focus on their causes. 
      I do support gun education, I think we need to start young so children do not die  from not following safe handling practices.

  • Tomduffy4u

    Gun control is so far from a saloution. Keeping guns from the mentally ill and securing guns in homes is a first step. A deeper discussion needs to take place about what it is in society that is developing this kind of behavior.

    Gun control only does two things.

    It puts more guns onto the street.

    And it builds black markets that love anything illigal.

    Both of these actions put more guns into the hands of evil people.

    Criminals will never commit crimes with a legal gun.
    They take someone else’s.
    Or they simply buy one in an ally.

    We are skipping over the issue and focusing on a tool of evil not the cause of evil.

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