Letter to the Editor

According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 66, Number 6 entitled Deaths: Final Data for 2015, deaths by “Intentional self-harm (suicide)” was the 10th leading cause of death for that year. Of these 44,193 suicide deaths, 6,816 were caused by poisoning, 11,865 by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation, and 22,018 by discharge of firearms. By comparison, 12,979 all deaths were as a result of assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms (nearly 2 gun suicides for every one gun homicide).

While the attention of many activists has been focused on the horrific number of homicides by firearm assault, especially in high density population areas, in Bucks County the ratio of suicides by firearms to homicides by firearms is much higher (26 to 5 for 2016, 29 to 7 for 2017). Calculating this ratio uses data supplied by the County Coroner.

Some may contend that “true violence” is perpetrated only when the death or injury is caused by the holder of the means, to take the life of or injure an innocent victim. But the violence of a suicide is not only to the person who takes this drastic action, but to the circle of family, friends, and neighbors who are shocked and devastated by this event.

The effectiveness of the suicidal means clearly favors the use of a firearm (85% lethality vs a much lower rate of 3% by use of the most common means, a drug overdose, as reported in Harvard Public Health, a Magazine of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/guns-suicide/.

It should be obvious from the physics of a bullet impacting a human body, that the lethality is enormously higher with such a weapon, and almost always irreversible. Why, then, is such a means (firearms) so prevalent? Arguably the massive numbers of weapons in households throughout the Nation and the County, their ease of purchase, the ready-access type of storage of loaded weapons for “protection”, and the common fiction promoted by the National Rifle Association that “a gun will make you safe” leads many individuals to conclude that they will be better off with a weapon at their disposal. Then a bout of depression, grief, rage, and hopelessness can result in an irreversible action that hurts themselves and everyone that knows them. As reported in The Trace, August 11, 2018, “[a]ccording to Liza Gold, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University of Medicine and editor of the forthcoming essay Gun Violence and Mental Illness….there’s no such thing as safe gun storage when a family member is in crisis (see https://www.thetrace.org/2015/11/gun-suicides-mental-illness-statistics/)

Why do we as a society tolerate this fiction of safety and protection, promoted by the NRA, and funded by weapons manufactures whose only concern is for their bottom line? Part of the explanation rests heavily on the shoulders, and in the souls and conscience, of those lawmakers who defy all logic and do not speak out and take action.

I do not like to consider myself a single issue voter, but this preventable mayhem perpetrated on the American voter, and resulting in injury and deaths to innocents, has gone on too long. “Now More Than Ever” is a phrase used by Brain Fitzpatrick, our current Representative in Washington. I would say he had it right, but he has not acted on his own brave words. He is accountable, as are we all, for this continuing tragedy in our County, our State, and our Nation. The leaders of the future which we will elect in November need to accept this responsibility. We need brave voices like those of Steve Santarsiero, Perry Warren, and Scott Wallace to be our voices, our representatives. The stakes are too high to be satisfied with just words. We need action, and we need it now, more than ever.

Joe Sundeen of Lower Makefield

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