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Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Look At The Numbers


National headlines on gun violence tend to focus on mass shootings and terrorism. Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S., though, are suicides. Today on Think, Krys Boyd explored these numbers with Ben Casselman who’s reported on gun deaths for the website

The KERA Interview

Ben Casselman on

… gun deaths by suicide:

“I think sometimes in this debate gun rights advocates will sort of dismiss those two-thirds of deaths that are by suicide and say, ‘You know, that’s not what we’re talking about here. These are people that wanted to kill themselves.’ I think what we miss when we think about it that way is that 70 percent of people who survive a suicide attempt don’t go on to attempt suicide again. They’re often impulsive acts. And so guns are only the third leading method by which people attempt suicide. They’re the leading method by which people actually end their lives.”

… the high homicide rate among young men:

“About half of gun homicides every year are young men. Two-thirds of those are black men mostly in cities. This is a case where both the victims and the perpetrators are to a large degree the same set of people. I think this gets into some really tricky areas. We talk about this as a gun problem, but this is a crime problem and it’s an opportunity problem.” 

 … if guns make us safer:

“People who own guns are more likely to die by gun. People who have guns in the home have higher rates of homicide, higher rates of suicide, higher rates of accident. So just in sort of looking at it in the most simplistic possible way, it's very much the opposite - guns don’t make you safer. Guns are dangerous. It’s difficult to study that for a number of reasons. You’re more likely to own a gun if you live in a neighborhood where you think you’re in danger. An individual person who is a responsible gun owner, who locks the gun up appropriately, who is well-trained, might very well believe that he or she is safer from owning a gun.”    

… the number of guns in the U.S.:  

“Gun ownership is actually down. We hear a lot about gun sales rising and particularly rising every time there’s any kind of gun restriction proposed, rising during the Obama administration. And that’s true in number of sales. We’ve never had more guns in this country, but we’ve also never had a smaller percentage of households with a gun. It’s people who own guns who own more guns than ever.”