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July 01, 2008

Most Gun Deaths Suicides

Which likely would have been committed in some other way, don't you think.

The Supreme Court's landmark ruling on gun ownership last week focused on citizens' ability to defend themselves from intruders in their homes. But research shows that surprisingly often, gun owners use the weapons on themselves.

Suicides accounted for about 55 percent of the nation's nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There was nothing unique about that year. Gun-related suicides have outnumbered firearm homicides and accidents for 20 of the past 25 years. In 2005, homicides accounted for 40 percent of gun deaths. Accidents accounted for 2.6 percent. The remaining 2 percent included legal killings, such as when police do the shooting, and cases that involve undetermined intent.

Public-health researchers have concluded that in homes where guns are present, the likelihood that someone in the home will die from suicide or homicide is much greater.

Now here's the problem with that statistic -- is there some control for the type of neighborhood in which the public is more likely to feel a need to arm themselves? Do the statistics take into consideration whether the guns in question are ones legally owned, as opposed to those possessed by criminals? Lots of questions -- relatively few answers.

But here's my question for liberals on that suicide number -- so what? Isn't one of the mantras of liberals that people have a right to do what they choose with their own bodies? It certainly is when you discuss the sacrament of abortion -- so why should it be any different when someone decides to blow their own brains out with a handgun (or pop a handful of pills or slit their wrists)? After all -- in such cases the lives they are taking are their own, rather than that of an innocent baby. Seems to me that suicide would simply be one more act with which society has no right to interfere because, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, "at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existing, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of life" -- which would seem to me to include a liberty to choose to lay down the burden of existence. Besides -- isn't suicide really nothing more than the ultimate reduction of one's carbon footprint?

And in any event, since when does the irresponsible exercise of a constitutional right by some justify the restriction of that right of others? We do not censor newspapers because of the irresponsible editorial decisions of the New York Times which regularly damage national security -- and so we should not ban guns on some theory that the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms is at time abused.





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