The majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicide deaths, and the majority of suicide deaths are gun deaths. Most people are unaware that suicide, at nearly 43,000 deaths per year, is more common than homicide and other widely publicized tragedies. And yet, suicide is typically absent from discussions of gun violence. As such, the national conversation on gun violence is inadequate and unrelated to the majority of gun deaths in this country.
In Guns and Suicide, Michael Anestis reframes our perspective on gun violence by shifting the focus to suicide. Guns play a uniquely profound role in American suicide, and Anestis explains how they have this effect-not by making otherwise non-suicidal people want to die, but by facilitating suicide attempts among suicidal individuals. He reviews the evidence - in suicide and other public health concerns - that focusing on specific means for contracting an unwanted outcome (e.g., HIV)
can successfully reduce the frequency of that outcome. With suicide, this could mean the passage of legislation related to firearm ownership and storage, non-legislative encouragement of safe storage of private firearms, voluntary and temporary removal of firearms from the home during times of distress, or a
combination of these factors. Importantly, this is not a book about gun control. Anestis does not argue in favor of tighter restrictions on ownership, assault weapon bans, or longer waiting periods for purchase because these will not substantially reduce the staggering gun suicide rate. Rather, Anestis aims for a cultural shift towards suicide-specific safe gun ownership and puts forth unemotional suggestions in hopes of leveraging common ground in the pursuit of a lower suicide
Michael Anestis, PhD, is a leading expert on guns and suicide. He is the Nina Bell Suggs Professor of Psychology and Chair of Clinical Admissions at the University of Southern Mississippi. His research interests include suicide risk factors and firearms, the capacity for suicide, pain response, and emotion dysregulation. He was awarded the 2015 Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science.