Slate celebrates the first anniversary of Newton by doing some basic research on gun violence in America. I kid you not, they have just discovered suicide:
Since the massacre at Newtown, Conn., Slate has scoured the Web for information on gun-related deaths and adding them to this interactive. As the months unfolded, it became clear that even though thousands of people were being added to our database, we were missing thousands more. Now that we’re hitting the one-year mark, the full extent of that deviation is clear: The CDC counts about 32,000 people killed with guns each year, while Slate’s database only has one-third of that. Why the huge discrepancy?
Earlier this month Slate launched an effort to categorize the gun deaths in our system. That effort verified the source of the discrepancy: suicides. We’ve missed nearly all gun-related suicides, because our information is based on media reports, and the media typically avoid reporting on suicides.
Our interactive reflects the picture the media paints of gun violence in America: One in which guns mostly kill homicide victims, with the occasional accidental death thrown in. But that’s immensely different than the reality of gun violence. In reality, two out of three gun deaths are suicides, not the one out of 10 our interactive suggests.
I can think of plenty of good reasons for the media not to report on suicides, but how could this be news to Slate?
Well, let me send them on their voyage of discovery with two additional insights. First, when hyping the urgency of gun control and the perils of gun violence in America, the key figure is the 30,000 total of homicides and suicides. How could an assault weapons ban or a limit on magazine capacity impact the suicide rate, you ask? Don't ask - it's 30,000 deaths and maybe we are having a crisis of suicidal people shooting themselves sixteen times and bleeding out.
However, when the topic segues to the intersection of mental health and gun violence, well, the mentally ill are victims, so the relevant baseline is the homicides. Why the exclusion of suicides? As is so often the case, I lack the mental acuity of the typical liberal, so I can't explain why on this topic the liberal media has this sudden loss of compassion and unwillingness to seek the regulation of others for their own protection.
That said, some sort of mental health screening might well bring down the suicide rate [link-Israel experience]:
EK: As I understand it, there’s a stronger link between guns and suicide than between guns and homicide. And one of the really interesting parts of your paper is your recounting of the Israeli military’s effort to cut suicides among soldiers by restricting access to guns.
JR: Yes, it’s very striking. In Israel, it used to be that all soldiers would take the guns home with them. Now they have to leave them on base. Over the years they’ve done this -- it began, I think, in 2006 -- there’s been a 60 percent decrease in suicide on weekends among IDS soldiers. And it did not correspond to an increase in weekday suicide. People think suicide is an impulse that exists and builds. This shows that doesn’t happen. The impulse to suicide is transitory. Someone with access to a gun at that moment may commit suicide, but if not, they may not.
To be fair, Slate does run a good piece on suicide and guns today.
MORE: To be really fair, Ross Douthat was all over the suicide issue last January. By way of contrast, here is the NY Times Joe Nocera, who has been tracking gun control since Newton, keeping us current as of Saturday morning:
According to Slate’s gun tracker, as of Friday evening, there have been around 11,460 gun deaths in the year since the Newtown massacre.
I am trying to believe that he understands the difference between "homicide" and "suicide". I am also wondering why he is not troubled that the Slate death rate is nowhere near the 30,000 national figure we might have expected. The Times has covered the suicide angle [my reax] and Mr. Nocera has even mentioned it in his writing. This is a Times pundit who has been obsessing about gun violence for a year, and he is about to discover what the rest of us knew a year ago. I am not agog because this is business as usual among our pundits, but honestly...