The Politics of Suicide
By Nicki Fellenzer
The New York Times resident mouthpiece for the Brady Agenda Fox Butterfield has filed a saccharine, angst-filled treatise on the “Culture of Suicide” in rural America. No doubt hanging for dear life on the coattails of the latest Brady wet dream – the death of a National Guard soldier in Maine and the subsequent battle of his mother to shred yet more of our rights – Butterfield has penned a clammy treatise blaming the availability of guns on high suicide rates in Stevensville, MT and other rural American areas.
You can almost see the tear streaks on Butterfield’s quasi gut-wrenching discourse. Short, somber, single-sentence descriptive paragraphs open the curtain to the connective tissue between three melancholy lives – the gun that ended them. Continuing his tradition of promoting the gun banner agenda whenever possible, Butterfield has created a panorama of despair in rural America.
Individuality and self-reliance become a curse that could lead to suicide in the bizarre world Butterfield paints for Americans. “People who see themselves as rugged frontiersmen are often reluctant to reach out for help, particularly for mental health treatment,” he writes. “If they do, they may see a physician instead of a psychiatrist or another trained mental health expert.” And, of course, Fox would be Fox if he didn’t throw in gun ownership as a “role” in suicide.
The weakness of the link between gun ownership and suicide should be obvious even to a two-year old, but if Butterfield shows any understanding of the absurdity of his claims, it is overshadowed by his zeal to paint gun ownership as detrimental to mental health and stability.
“Researchers have long known the statistics, but new research illuminates the substantial role of firearms in suicide,” he intones.
Well, OK. We’ll give him that. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 31,655 people ended their lives in America in 2002. And more than half of those who chose to kill themselves – 17,108 – did so using a firearm.
But does this mean that gun ownership leads to greater suicide rates?
Does this mean that gun availability leads to an epidemic of self shootings?
Only if you believe that presence of toasters in the home leads to house fires. After all, nearly all the homes that burn down in America have a toaster! There MUST be connection, right?
It is true that suicide rates tend to be higher in rural areas. B. Dembling and L. Merkel, having studied suicide rates in rural Virginia conclude that, “Contrary to the traditional idea that rural areas are less stressed, more idyllic, and freer from violence and psychopathology than urban areas, recent research points to the fact that rural areas may have as much, if not more, violence and psychopathology than urban areas. This may be true of suicide as well. In addition, rural areas tend to have decreased access to resources and poorer health care delivery.”
Residents in rural areas also tend to be poorer, according to the National Rural Health Association. On the average, per capita income is $7,417 lower than in urban areas, and rural Americans are more likely to live below the poverty level. The disparity in incomes is even greater for minorities living in rural areas. Nearly 24% of rural children live in poverty. This makes it a bit difficult to afford a shrink, when the cheapest of them charge $100 per hour.
There tends to be a sense of isolation in rural areas. Many times your closest neighbor is miles away. It’s understandable that despite the idyllic, peaceful surroundings, depression could set in. It is also true that residents in rural areas tend to own firearms at a higher rate than their urban counterparts. Many large cities tightly control or ban firearms ownership, while Second Amendment freedoms thrive in America’s rural lands. Hunting is a popular sport. Indeed, Butterfield confirms that in Stevensville, many students own firearms and hunt, often starting in junior high school. "Guns and hunting are a rite of passage in Montana," Linda Mullan, who works as a guidance counselor at Stevensville High school, said.
But what is completely incomprehensible is the insistence on blaming high rates of firearms ownership for high rates of suicide.
Social isolation is a direct cause of suicidal feelings. Lack of mental health facilities and the inability to afford psychiatric care can also be seen as a direct cause. But the easy availability of guns has no effect on the mental state of the owners or their ability to get help for those feelings of despair. The only thing firearms provide is a way for those who have already made the decision to end their lives to complete the act.
Are they the only way? Of course not!
People who have reached a state of desperation so profound that they make the decision to quit, will not be deterred by the absence of a firearm. There are plenty of other ways one could end it all, including pills, household poisons and razors – all tools easily available and much more prevalent in America’s households than firearms.
Additionally, if you compare suicide statistics from other nations – countries that either strictly regulate or restrict the ownership of firearms – you will see that the rural folks in the U.S. are relatively stable, even though their suicide rates tend to be higher than in urban areas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, the 2002 crude suicide rate per 100,000 among males was 17.95.
The World Health Organization, which keeps track of suicide rates in the world’s nations, shows some numbers that could be alarming to Fox Butterfield and his band of hysterical cohorts at the New York Times, IF they actually gave a damn about factual accuracy. In Australia, where the government continues to tighten its grip on gun owners and guns are becoming less and less readily available, 21.2 men per every 100,000 committed suicide in 1999.
In Austria – another gun control paradise – that number was 27.3.
In Belgium, in 1996, the suicide rate among men was 29.4 per 100,000
In Denmark – 20.9 per 100,000 in 1998.
In Finland, where guns are strictly regulated, and you must have a damn good reason for owning one (apparently protection is not considered a valid need), 34.6 men per 100,000 offed themselves in 2000.
And in that socialist paradise, Japan, where the ONLY reason you will ever be allowed to own a gun is if you participate in shooting sports, 36.5 men per 100,000 killed themselves in 1999.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that even though more than half of the people who commit suicide in the United States use firearms to do it, the high rate of firearms ownership is NOT THE CAUSE of the “Culture of Suicide” to which Butterfield alludes. Indeed, it appears that if people want to end it all, they’ll do it using any means available, firearms or not. In rural America, guns appear to be the tool of choice. What do they use in Japan?
But then again, what do you expect from the Times’ resident political activist for Handgun Control, Inc. – the truth? Some honest research? Please! Butterfield’s hysterical gun control agenda-ridden dramatics were discredited by John Lott in The Bias Against Guns, and yet, he continues to spew melodramatic misrepresentations about guns and gun ownership in an obsequious effort to get just a quick lick of Sarah Brady’s shoe.
But Fox need not look to rural Montana if he wants to wax sensational about suicides. He can stick closer to home. Apparently a rash of suicides at New York University about a year ago saw four students jump to their deaths from rooftops in a span of 6 months.
Using Butterfield’s logic, maybe tall buildings are to blame.