Now that I’ve completely confused everyone with that title, allow me to explain. (You may want to grab a drink and a comfortable chair for this one.)
If you either watched or heard about President Barack Obama’s tearful speech today, in which he talked about his new executive actions on gun control, you may well have had a number of questions when it was over. I know I certainly did. But for the moment, I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of his discussion. For one of the first times in recent memory we heard a leading Democrat mention the fact that their usual talking points about “more than 30,000 deaths due to gun violence per year” includes a significant majority which are actually suicides, not murders or accidents. Allow me to applaud the President for finally being honest about this, since normally the figure is tossed out there with no context shortly before Hillary Clinton or some other Democrat goes into a pitch for more gun control as if the entire figure were comprised of mass shootings by angry white men.
But in order to tackle this question we’ll need to immediately pivot to another serious threat to the lives of Americans which I’m sure the President will want to address this year: fires in homes and other structures. (Stick with me here…) Each year in the United States, an average of more than 20,500 people are killed or seriously injured in fires, not to mention billions of dollars in property losses. The death toll from these conflagrations actually approaches the number of murders in the country during some years and clearly something needs to be done, as I’m sure the President will agree. Thankfully, we have a lot of good data on how these fires happen and there are barely half a dozen contributing factors which account for almost all of them. According to the National Fire Protection Association these include an average of:
- 47,700 fires started by electrical malfunctions
- 22,600 fires caused by lightning strikes
- 17,600 fires started by smoking
- 16,800 fires started by dryers and washing machines
- 10,630 fires started by candles
- 7,100 fires caused by children playing with matches or other flame sources
Oh, and there are also an average of 230 fires caused each year by Christmas trees.
Today, the President opened the door to the suicide question and then immediately explained that he would deal with it in the same way he would stamp out deaths in fires by outlawing Christmas trees.
It’s true that we have a tragic number of people committing suicide every year. In fact, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in America and more than 500,000 people attempt it annually. Of that half million, a fair amount of the roughly 38,000 successful suicides (about 50%) were done with guns. But that’s mostly among men. The method of choice among the majority of women was poison. Many others took different paths including hanging, asphyxiation, jumping off tall buildings or other methods. Still, guns represent a relatively tiny fraction of the total number of attempts.
Even if you could somehow keep guns out of the hands of the suicidal (and please do explain how we manage that) they have other avenues available. Do you really think they won’t explore them? But more to the point, if you’re really, honestly interested in cutting down on the number of suicides, wouldn’t you look into identifying those at risk, finding out why they want to kill themselves and get them some help? The reality is that the availability of guns has little or nothing to do with this.
But let’s just say for a moment that we’re all living in whatever Bizzaro World the President is operating from and people who were unable to obtain a gun wouldn’t kill themselves at all. How are expanded background checks going to cut down on this number? Will you include a check box on the permit application which says, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” (Check Yes or No.) One can only imagine the number of depressed, suicidal individuals who will loudly exclaim, “Drats!” and leave the gun shop.
Playing off the national crisis of suicide as an excuse to enact more gun control through executive action isn’t just ineffective. It’s dishonest and it plays politics with the lives of real families in crisis to advance a Democrat agenda. If the President wants to put more resources into helping the depressed, the mentally unstable and the terminally ill who may be looking to end their suffering, that’s great. I’ll be behind him 100% on that idea. But this insulting shell game isn’t helping anyone.