Opinion: Solve the Problem of Gun Use in Suicide to Stop Mass Shootings

Aidan Barney, Editor

With the recent mass shootings in Colorado Springs at Club Q and a Virginia Walmart still rocking the nation, there has once again been renewed debate surrounding what the county should do regarding the idea of gun control. Once again this debate has predictably devolved into a shouting match. Both sides speak with a lack of empathy for each other. I believe it is important for us to take a step back and look at an issue that is frequently overlooked and one we can all agree on solving: guns and how they correlate with suicide.


Suicide and Guns 

Whenever a mass shooting occurs there is always a massive nationwide outcry about it. It’s always a mass shooting that causes that outcry but we as a country always tend to ignore the biggest cause of firearm deaths, suicide. The fact that we do neglect that aspect makes sense. Generally, we tend to feel more threatened by mass shootings because it’s something that could happen to us. We don’t believe suicide could happen to us which causes us to ignore the serious issue of suicide by guns, in fact while I was writing this piece the DJ for the ellen show Stephen Boss committed suicide with a gun himself. And ignoring this issue is dangerous. According to 2021 data from the CDC gun-related suicide is the number one method of suicide. 24,292 suicides being caused by guns, which we should be able to agree is a horrifying statistic. Something else that’s very important for us in this school to understand is how gun suicide rates among youth have begun to skyrocket. ABC News reports that while during the pandemic overall firearm suicide rate only jumped up by 2% the youth firearm suicide rate soared to 15%. I’m hoping that taking a deeper look into this very clear issue could not only help us arrive at some possible solutions for the issue but also help add some common ground and understanding to the gun debate going forward.


So What are some possible solutions to this issue?

According to Pew Research, something that both gun owners and non-gun owners appear to agree should be done is preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns. While I believe this should be done to save a good amount of lives of the people committing suicide with firearms, I don’t think it would be properly addressing the primary issue of mental health. We desperately need to increase our funding for mental healthcare resources. Often we put the burden of handling this issue on our police officers. As former Dallas police chief, David Brown commented on in 2016 at a press conference. “we’re asking cops to do too much in this country, we are, we’re just asking too much, every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve, not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it.” I believe this is a correct assessment. We cannot just expect the police to solve all of our society’s current problems. This is not the purpose of their job. It’s not what they are trained to do. This is something we should be working to solve separately.


That’s why I believe the best solution to this larger issue is for the government to expand access to resources to help with this. Something that I believe could make a big difference is if 911 were to have a dedicated hotline for mental health-related calls. People calling, whether it be the person in need of help or a loved one, could get easy access to someone who can talk to them about whatever issues that person may be having. While there is a hotline for suicide, many people calling don’t get redirected to that hotline. Making sure that there are resources for the issue on a hotline most people think of when they have an emergency would be vital. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing conducted a study that found that 74% of Americans did not believe mental health services were accessible for everyone and that 47% believed that options for that help were limited. This makes it very clear that change to the way we handle that institution has popular support for being changed. Another solution proposed by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is to engage in secure storage for guns. Secure storage means people store all of their guns unloaded or in a gun safe. The foundation says “The best way to help protect a person in distress is to temporarily remove all lethal means, including firearms, from the home until the person is no longer in a state of crisis.”


How could these solutions help reduce mass shootings?

I believe that reducing gun access could very easily reduce our current massive amount of gun violence. Ensuring that people who are known to have serious mental issues aren’t able to purchase a weapon capable of such harm would be a big deal in ensuring that people can feel safer on the day-to-day. Proper gun storage falls into a similar idea of ensuring people who are suffering from major mental issues have less ready access to firearms, although it’s a bit more on a person-to-person basis. Expanding access to mental health resources is extremely vital as it can help prevent these shootings in the future. This is because instead of people with mental illness just continuing to let their negative thoughts and feelings sit there they would have more access to people who could genuinely help them which could decrease mass shootings and suicide. 


How talking about this issue can help evolve the debate around gun control?

I’m pro-gun control. However, that isn’t the point of this piece. My purpose going into this was to help identify a common ground that we can all agree on. that ended up leading me to the issue of gun-related suicide. if we can come together and understand that there is a one part of the gun debate that we have means to solve without it being presumed an overreach by some, we could approach the debate around more controversial issues like an assault weapon ban with more dignity and respect for each other. Ultimately, I believe what is important for us at this moment is acknowledging that the people on both sides of this debate are just that, people. People who all believe that their side is right, and that’s fine. Having this debate is important so we can have a thoughtful discussion but that’s the issue lately: a lack of willingness from people to try to understand other people’s viewpoints on issues and that’s what we need going forward.