EVERY day in the United States three people between 10 and 19 take their own lives using guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for that age group, behind accidents.

Last week, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study adding to a body of evidence that proximity to firearms increases the likelihood that someone, especially young people, will commit suicide.

Youth suicide rates consistently are higher in states with high rates of household gun ownership, the study found. Wyoming, where 65 percent of households include guns, had the nation’s highest rate of youth suicide over the 10-year study period, 11.9 per 100,000. New Jersey, with the nation’s second lowest household gun ownership rate of 11.4 percent, had the lowest youth suicide rate, 2.6 per 100,000. Pennsylvania, with a household gun ownership rate of 35.1 percent, tied with New Hampshire for the 10th lowest youth suicide rate, 4.2 per 100,000.

Nationally, the study found that every 10 percentage point increase in household gun ownership at the state level increased the youth suicide rate by 29.6 percent.

No one suggests that guns are the cause of a young person deciding to take his own life. But they are overwhelmingly the instrument of choice.

Doreen Marshall of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention put it this way: “Any time you have the means for suicide readily accessible to a person at risk, that increases the risk. If we can just put some time and distance between the person and their chosen method, they may not end up trying to take their lives.”

To create that time and distance, state law should require firearms to be locked away and unloaded when not in use. That would not preclude anyone from owning a firearm, but it would deter at least some suicides.

Wilkes Barre Citizens’ Voice | AP

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