Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Responsible Gun Ownership Can Mean Heavily Restricted Gun Ownership

I've been floating the idea with fellow firearm owners that maybe gun control is justified as a means to restrict suicide.  The number one response I get is, "that's interesting, but I don't feel like responsible gun owners should have to suffer here.  There have to be better ways to curb suicide."

The problem with that thinking is we have a dumb definition of "responsible gun owner."  When they teach you how to be a "responsible" firearm owner pretty much every lesson is about how to shoot people.  Don't point your weapon at people you don't want shot because you might accidentally shoot them.  Treat your weapon as loaded or you'll accidentally shoot the wrong people.  This stance is good for when you need to shoot people.  This is how you mantain your weapon for shooting.  Don't point your firearm at anyone you don't want to instantly respect you.  Etc.

The problem is, again, in the majority of tragic firearm deaths in this country the shooter correctly identifies and fires on  his target.  I'm talking 'bout suicide. Suicides don't need lessons on how to not accidentally hit the wrong target and how to cleanly hit the target they are aiming for, the target they are aiming for is, like, half an inch away from the firearm.  "Responsible gun ownership," as it is now conceptualized, does nothing for suicides, positive or negative.

But that's crazy, because the single biggest risk we impose on the community when we own firearms is that someone will kill themselves with them.  Again, for American citizens this isn't just the biggest category of firearm death, it is the majority of firearm deaths. It dwarfs accidents and self defense and murder and war.  Responsible firearm owners who aren't thinking about how to prevent suicides from using their firearms aren't responsible.

That said, it's *hard* to keep people from killing themselves with your firearm.  It imposes big restrictions on where you can keep it.  Pretty much the only way to stop fire arm suicide is to keep firearms out of the hands of people at risk for suicide, or at least to impose barriers between them getting their crazy impulse and them acting on it.  But just targeting at risk people isn't enough, because it is hard to identify who is "at risk for suicide."  So you have to cast an even wider net than that.

So here are some "responsible gun ownership" tips I follow:

1. No gun in the home if teenagers live there.
2. No guns in the home if anyone who has ever experienced suicidal ideation lives there.
3. No guns in the home if anyone who suffers from depression or a related disorder lives there.  Not even diagnosed, just "seems to get sad sometimes."
4. Sure as hell no guns in the home if anyone who has tried to kill themselves lives there.
5. No guns in the home if anyone is now depressed.
6. No guns in the home if a close family member of anyone living there recently died (especially a spouse or child).
7. No guns in the home if anyone recently lost a job.
8. No guns in the home if people you don't know well live there.
9. No guns in the home if anyone has a substance abuse problem.
10. If you fit one of these categories, no guns in the home.

This doesn't mean no firearm ownership.  Keep 'em at a friends house.  But it does mean that about half of the people I know who own firearms are, by my lights, irresponsible owners, and don't have a leg to stand on when they protest gun control.

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