I’ve always considered my political views to be more independent than anything else. I’m pro-choice, and I believe in the separation of church and state. But at the same time, I tend towards opting for less government involvement in economic issues, exercising more of a traditional free-market perspective. Oh, and I also tend to believe in peoples’ rights to own and operate firearms. I’ve grown up with guns. My dad always owned them, and we’ve gone shooting a number of times. So, I’ve always been under the impression that what people do with their rights to own guns is their business as long as they don’t abuse that power – as long as they don’t infringe on others’ rights to pursue happiness by inflicting pain, taking innocent lives, etc. Additionally, most of my conceptions regarding enforcing stricter gun laws have come from panic-strung attempts at legislating the prevention mass firearm attacks, like the Columbine High School and Orlando nightclub shootings, for which I don’t feel that stricter gun laws would effectively deter. Now, call me “out of the loop,” but recently my anti-regulation perspective came into question when I read a headline suggesting that more lenient gun ownership laws may lead to higher suicide rates, which is something I hadn’t considered before.
A study published a few years ago by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and written by Cassandra Crifasi, assistant scientist in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, along with a few others, suggests that increasing firearm availability could correlate with increasing suicide rates. The researchers analyzed data gathered over 31 years and “used synthetic control modeling” to determine the consequences of mandated permit-to-purchase laws in states that newly enforced them at the time (PTP laws require gun owners to apply for a gun and complete eight hours of safety training before purchasing a firearm). Their results were that there would be a 15.4% drop in firearm suicide rates following the state of Connecticut’s PTP law enforcement. Additionally, following Missouri’s repeal of the law, they estimated a 16.1% increase in gun-related suicides.
Now, some say there may be other factors that contribute to lower gun violence in states with stricter ownership laws, and it’s dangerous at this point to determine a strict cause and effect relationship. According to an article by the Associated Press of nola.com, “Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said studies that have found links between states’ gun laws and firearm deaths fail to consider all the relevant factors…such as how much money is spent in each state on policing and suicide-prevention.”
I’m not saying I’m entirely swayed to endorse highly strict gun laws. There are plenty of people out there – the majority, even – who can own and operate a firearm responsibly and without harming others. And it’s impossible to deny that gun-related protections can lead to safer households where individuals and families have access to a level of quick and effective defense against danger and intruders. But I’m also no fan of suicide, and if altering our permit regulations means saving lives, especially young lives, that’s an unintended consequence I could get on board with.