Utah Is Trying to Stop a Suicide Epidemic—While Loosening Gun Laws
Even while gun advocates are still saying that cars kill more people than guns do, in many states* it has become a false and misleading statement, or a pure canard. Nationwide gun deaths will outnumber traffic deaths in just a couple of short years as those streams begin to cross on the charts, but in many gun saturated states they already have crossed.
In the not-so-distant future, if current trends continue, more Americans will die from gun violence than from auto accidents, but the state of Utah is wrestling with the fact that it hit that grisly benchmark a few years ago. And it’s not “bad guys with guns” driving this trend; the vast majority of gun deaths in Utah for the past few years (89 percent in 2011; see chart) were people taking their own lives.
Among them was 14-year-old David Phan, who walked onto the skybridge in front of his junior-high school this past November and, in front of his schoolmates, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His death was one of more than an estimated 500 suicides in Utah in 2012, more than half of which likely involved a firearm. (Utah is one of only five states where gun suicides alone exceed traffic fatalities: Check out our state-by-state map.)
Driving fatalities, another leading cause of preventable death in Utah, hit a historic low in 2011 following a long, downward trend. But gun suicides have been rising.
Do Guns kill more than Cars in your state?
* While writing this I had to go back and correct one thing - initially research seemed to indicate that this was a red state problem, but the chart at Mother Jones seems to indicate that it’s independent of political leanings of any given state. The states leading the charge are hunting states where there are more guns per capita among the population, or states with high saturation urban pockets, so it’s more likely tied to gun saturation than political or ideological leans of states.