Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Wisconsin Ranks Low in Gun Suicides

At least compared to other states. Compared to other developed nations, horribly high.

By - Sep 22nd, 2020 09:19 am
M1911 Pistol Gun. Pixabay License. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

M1911 Pistol Gun. Pixabay License.

There are two ways of living in America.

The Wyoming way, where an astounding 68.8 percent of households own guns and where an incredible 73 percent of all suicides involve guns.

And the Hawaii way, where just 10.4 percent of households own guns and just 17 percent of suicides involve guns.

In Wyoming the annual rate of suicides by gun per 100,000 people is 18.69, or about nine times higher than Hawaii, where the rate is just 2.11.

Oh, and if you think that’s because Hawaii is so far from mainland America, or has such lovely weather, the numbers are nearly as low in Massachusetts, where just 12.5 percent of households own guns and just 20 percent of suicides involve guns.

America, it’s clear, is two different nations when it comes to guns and the gun-loving half has a lot more people dying from gun suicides.

That conclusion is inescapable looking at a new study by the Violence Policy Center, entitled “States with Lower Gun Ownership and Strong Gun Laws Have Lowest Suicide Rates”, and which offers a table with statistics for all 50 states in 2018.

Where does Wisconsin rank? You might call it a swing state, whose statistics don’t quite fit the prevailing national pattern. Wisconsin ranks 19th highest in the percent of households that own guns, yet it ranks 38th highest in gun suicides per 100,000 people and 41st highest in the percent of suicides involving guns.

So, yes, we’ve got a much lower rate of gun suicides than states like Wyoming, Montana or Alaska. And Wisconsin’s rate of gun suicides of 7.27 per 100,000 is slightly lower than the national rate of 7.47.

But America’s rate is off the charts compared to other developed countries, as this ranking by Wikipedia shows: America’s gun suicide rate in 2017 was 7.32 or nearly five times higher than Canada (1.57), eight times higher than Germany (0.91), 12 times higher than Ireland (0.62) and nearly 49 times higher than the United Kingdom (0.15). For that matter you can’t find any undeveloped country on the list with a rate anywhere near as high as America’s — or Wisconsin’s.

Which is to say the Badger State is one of the most dangerous places on the globe for suicides by gun. Just not as bad as states like Wyoming.

The Violence Policy Center, in its latest report, ticks off the list of deadly statistics for America: In 2018 “there were 48,344 suicides in the United States: 132 suicides per day; one suicide every 10.9 minutes. More than half (50.5 percent) of these were firearm suicides, which totaled 24,432 in 2018.”

As the group’s Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states in a press release: “Suicide is the most common type of gun death in America and the use of a firearm is the key factor in whether a suicide attempt is completed or not.”

The group has done compelling research in the past relating gun ownership and lax regulations on guns and concealed carry laws to gun deaths. But this report concentrates only on suicides and its argument that states with strong gun laws have less suicides seems less persuasive. Are suicides more likely to be committed if there is easy access to assault weapons or if concealed or open carry is allowed? The report simply asserts this and picks New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maryland as the safest states, because they have the lowest overall rate of suicide per 100,000 people, along with some of the toughest gun laws.

But when you look not at the overall suicide rate but at the gun suicide rate, Hawaii ranks lower than these five states. And Connecticut ranks lower than Maryland. The study doesn’t tell us what kind of gun control policies these two states have, but does show Hawaii ranks lowest in percent of households with guns and Connecticut ranks fifth lowest. They are states where household have less access to guns, which may be far more critical to reducing gun suicides than laws on assault weapons or concealed carry.

The Rand Corporation’s Gun Policy in America Initiative has looked at a long list of gun control policies and found that 18 could not be proven to prevent gun suicides. But it found four policies that may decrease suicide: child access prevention laws, licensing and permitting requirements, minimum age (of 21) requirements for gun ownership and waiting periods.

If the goal is prevent murders, issues like assault weapons are surely important. But when it comes to suicides, the four factors noted by Rand seem far more important. It’s all about easy access to a gun for those contemplating suicide. And the U.S. and Wisconsin make that very easy.

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