Gun Control

For Gun Control Supporters, Japan's High Suicide Rate Is Much Less Interesting Than Its Low Homicide Rate

A Vox post about Australia highlights declines in suicide, a subject that a post about Japan does not even mention.

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Last August Vox's Zack Beauchamp considered Australia's experience with gun control and concluded that country's confiscation program in 1996 and 1997 "saved lives, probably by reducing homicides and almost certainly by reducing suicides." Although the impact on the homicide rate, which was already declining, remains controversial, Beauchamp wrote, "Buying back 3,500 guns correlated with a 74 percent drop in firearm suicides," while "non-gun suicides didn't increase to make up the decline." He added:

There is good reason why gun restrictions would prevent suicides….Suicide is often an impulsive choice, one often not repeated after a first attempt. Guns are specifically designed to kill people effectively, which makes suicide attempts with guns likelier to succeed than (for example) attempts with razors or pills. Limiting access to guns makes each attempt more likely to fail, thus making it more likely that people will survive and not attempt to harm themselves again.

Beauchamp updated that post last Thursday, presumably to take advantage of renewed interest in gun control following the massacre in San Bernardino. Later that same day, he wrote a new post calling attention to Japan's remarkably low homicide rate, which he attributed largely to that country's strict gun control. But unlike the post about Australia, the one about Japan does not so much as mention suicide, possibly because residents of the latter country kill themselves at a much higher rate than Americans do, even though they are much less likely to own guns.

Based on data from the World Health Organization, Japan's suicide rate last year was 18.8 per 100,000, compared to 12.4 per 100,000 for the United States. National government data show an even bigger gap: 20.1 vs. 12.6. If "there is good reason why gun restrictions would prevent suicides" (as opposed to merely encouraging the substitution of one method for another), why is Japan's suicide rate so high? It's the sort of question you'd expect a journalist to address (or at least mention) if he were honestly interested in exploring the consequences of gun control, as opposed to making a case for it by cherry-picking the most helpful data.

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  1. Suicide is often an impulsive choice, one often not repeated after a first attempt.

    No shit.

    1. Competent people certainly don’t need second attempts.

      1. Most of us are naturals at this sort of thing.

        /The ghost of Ernest Hemingway.

  2. I hate to generalize, but citing the Japanese as an example of anything is problematic. That island seems to be one giant outlier.

    1. Cultures are fungible, silly!

      1. Clearly those Americans comitting suicide were culturally appropriating from the Japanese, and should be shamed into living.

        1. The SJW’s are going to be what starts the Zombie Apocalypse. I should have known.

          1. I thought SJWs are the zombie apocalypse.

  3. I like when they bring up the ‘30,000 gun deaths’ claim because it includes 20,000 suicides even though the USA’s suicide rate is unexceptional.

    So our relatively high homicide rate (which if you look at in percentage terms isn’t even very high) is evidence we need gun control, but our totally average suicide rate is also evidence we need gun control.

    1. But our low mass shooting casualty and frequency rates should be ignored.

      1. Of course, the only evidence that is admissable is evidence that supports their policy.

  4. “if he were honestly interested in exploring the consequences of gun control, as opposed to making a case for it by cherry-picking the most helpful data.”

    does anyone believe they are ever trying to be honest?

  5. Why should we keep people from committing suicide? They own themselves and can dispose of their property as they see fit.

    1. Don’t be silly, they don’t own themselves, they’re property of the all mighty state, and thus killing themselves is stealing from the state.

      /notmylogic.

    2. Because suicide is often not a rational choice but an impulsive one made by someone at a personal mental/emotional nadir; as a result, there are often there are a whole host of future themselves that would veto that choice, given the chance, and we tend to err on the side of helping those future people.

      Have you actually known people who have battled suicidal tendencies and then recovered? It might color your outlook to think about things might have turned out differently for them.

      1. Yes, I have. But respecting individuals means letting them make their own choices. It’s their life, they have to live it. If they don’t want to anymore, I don’t want the state to intercede.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t personally try to intercede, but state coercion is abhorrent and I’d never use force to keep someone alive against their will.

        1. We also have no obligation to give up any of our rights because someone else might want to use a gun to commit suicide.

          There is no such thing as a “collective” responsibility for suicide prevention – or anything else for that matter.

      2. People in the future don’t exist and can’t make moral claims on people living in the present.

        1. People in the future don’t exist and can’t make moral claims on people living in the present.

          That’s an argument for deficit spending…

        2. So we *can* run up the national debt to stratospheric levels and let our unborn great-grandchildren worry about it. Not to mention dump CO2 into the atmosphere so that the average daytime temp in North America rises to 140 degrees F by 2100. It’s not like we’re the ones who will be suffering.

      3. There are a whole host of decisions I made when younger that I would veto if given the option today. That doesn’t mean those decision should be illegal.

      4. there are often there are a whole host of future themselves that would veto that choice, given the chance

        And suicide can make sure those future selves would never exist to veto or regret anything.

      5. Have you actually known people who have battled suicidal tendencies and then recovered? It might color your outlook to think about things might have turned out differently for them.

        But the people who succeeded, fuck ’em.

      6. Have you actually known people who have battled suicidal tendencies and then recovered? It might color your outlook to think about things might have turned out differently for them.

        Have you ever actually known people who battled them…forever, and never recovered? What do you think their lives were like?

      7. Because suicide banging the secretary/buying a sports car/quitting a good job is often not a rational choice but an impulsive one made by someone at a personal mental/emotional nadir;

      8. “Because [gun ownership] is often not a rational choice but an impulsive one made by someone…”

        Do you stand by your line of reasoning when applied to other topics?

        What criteria and authority are you using to determine the rationality of a choice another makes of their private property and personal affairs? I think suicide can be and often is quite rational. Would you intervene, and if so, how far, to prevent a man from marrying a woman (or perhaps more poignantly, another man) that you have deemed irrational to his own good? Many people could say that someone’s very soul for all eternity is at stake (including whatever ‘host of future themselves’ there “is”)

        And since it’s apparently relevant for some unstated reason, I’ve had several friends tell me that if not for me they would have committed suicide. I’ve also had several friends commit suicide, one of which called me an hour before he shot himself and I missed the call. Had I answered it and known what was coming I would surely have tried to talk him out of it as a friend and for selfish reasons, but I am not the state, and neither I or any authority should claim the right to physically stop him. Nor should any cost or law be forcibly imposed on society at large to prevent people from taking their own lives. Those costs, if incurred, should be voluntarily undertaken by friends and family.

  6. 13 straight years of Japan’s suicide numbers topping 30k. Overlap that with the stimulus overload the BOJ and the govt has put the country through and you can see a correlation. A Japanese person without a job, no prospects, no friends and you get high probability of suicide. And of course they don’t view suicide the same as the West does.

    1. Yeah, Japan is a wonderful petri dish for studying the effects of culture. They have virtually no murders but their suicide rate is gigantic because displays of violence are completely unacceptable culturally in Japan but suicide has always been viewed as not a big deal. It’s actually been institutionalized at various points in Japanese history.

      1. They wield the sword of ostracism so deftly that the actual suicide itself is just a formality.

  7. Guns are specifically designed to kill people effectively, which makes suicide attempts with guns likelier to succeed than (for example) attempts with razors or pills.

    I wonder just how true that is.

    1. I think you’d have to isolate for self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

      1. That weren’t accidental.

        1. C’mon. Really think it’s easier to kill yourself with a knife than a gun?

          1. Sorry, misread that.

          2. Sorry, misread that.

          3. Sorry, misread that.

    2. Considering that razors take longer (and require more will to use) and the truly effective pills to take to kill yourself are illegal and harder to obtain, I could believe it. But they have their thumb on the scale.

      1. You don’t need razors, pills or guns to kill yourself.

        Just go sit in your car in a closed garage.

        Start the motor and let the carbon monoxide put you to sleep – permanently.

        1. Trust a libertarian to make the largest carbon footprint in taking himself out.

    3. Guns are specifically designed to kill people effectively

      I wonder just how true that is.

      Considering cars weren’t designed to kill people and actually do kill more people every year, leads one to wonder about the ‘specifically designed to kill people effectively’ claim.

      1. False comparison, really. Cars have such a high fatality number because there are so many on the road and they’re used so often. You can’t really compare accidental kill rate with the efficacy of firearms. you’d have to look at attempted/successful murder by automobile.

        1. you’d have to look at attempted/successful murder by automobile.

          Somebody start writing a grant proposal.

          1. This has actually been studied. I can’t remember the studies name, but someone realized that women were committing suicide by traffic accident a while back in response to certain events. It took a while to recognize because a suicide accident looks the same as a normal distracted accident, but they managed to tease that the shear jump in accidents leading to death suggested a high probability of suicides.

          2. Damned GOP/Tea Party will block funding for critical CDC study of automobile violence, no doubt. /sarc

            Or, maybe, the CDC will stick to issuing weird missives on alcohol, obesity, and other social ills that aren’t diseases. *dismounts soapbox, crankily*

            1. No the CDC is too busy mishandling anthrax to do any new studies.

        2. You can’t really compare accidental kill rate with the efficacy of firearms. you’d have to look at attempted/successful murder by automobile.

          Says you. I’ve never known a gun to discharge and kill both the person it was pointed at and the person operating it (unless they were the same person), this happens regularly with vehicles. But, it’s all in the definitions (which Vox is conveniently composing in their favor). One a per use basis or maximum kill velocity, bombs/explosives are obviously way more effective than guns or cars, despite their exceptionally less frequent use.

          I just very much take umbrage at the statement ‘Guns are specifically designed to kill people effectively’ because it leaves off the clause ‘in a highly selective manner.’

          1. In analysis of mass casualty events of late, the bombs were less effective at creating casualties than the guns were. You get one use out of them and distance and intervening objects mitigated the blast/shrapnel effects. It was the shooters who killed the most, which is why terrorists have been moving from bombs to shootings.

            1. That’s funny because the professionals in charge of producing mass casualty events have been moving towards explosives (and delivering them from further away) for decades.

              Are you seriously arguing that guns are unquestionably the deadliest devices on the face of the Earth or just trolling?

              1. Where are you getting your information from? And are we even looking the same subsets of “mass casualty professionals”?

                And only a fool would say that this discussion was ever about “unquestionably the deadliest devices on the face of the Earth” because nukes win that one hands down, and we’re not talking about nuclear war, we’re talking about guns. If anyone’s trolling, it’s you with the way you keep trying to move the goalposts.

        3. Just handwaving it away with “false comparison” doesn’t actually help. One has to ask why, if cars were not designed to kill, they do kill so many people, and hunting rifles, undeniably designed to kill, are very rarely used in homicides. The whole point is that “designed to kill” is a purely emotional argument, not a reasonable or smart one.

          1. Except it is factual.

            When designing new firearms or updating older models, the efficacy at its core task is always one of the key issues discussed, be it in terms of ‘stopping power’, or whatnot. (Even if the power required is only to stop a varmint and not a human).

            With cars, the factors are fuel economy, torque, aerodynamics, aesthetics and not killing people if at all possivle (safety)

            Just because the base fact is being used as an appeal to emotion does not remove the fact from being factual.

        4. Cars Guns have such a high fatality number because there are so many on the road in circulation and they’re used so often.

          Seriously, I wonder what percentage of guns wind up killing someone, v. the percentage of cars that do?

          1. They may be in circulation, but a lot of their time is spent in storage. (a far higher percentage than with automobiles)

  8. So everyone but me has the good taste not to joke about Japan’s greater experience with non-gun suicides?

    1. Don’t be silly, we’re just hashing out the verbiage. Now you’ve gone and ruined it.

      1. I have been shamed. Fortunately I’m not a Japanese samurai.

        1. I’ve been trying to come up with a joke about the Gaijin Shogun but I kept realizing It’d be forced and imposing upon the conversation.

          1. That is one big-ass pipe.

  9. Japan’s remarkably low homicide rate, which he attributed largely to that country’s strict gun control.

    Why is gun “control” the factor as opposed to Japan’s 99.7% conviction rate? Considering that homicide can be performed using a variety of tools, as opposed to just a firearm, wouldn’t a theory have more explanatory power be if you believe that you have absolutely no chance at beating the rap (guilty or innocent), then you might be inhibited from performing illegal acts ?

    1. There’s also the tendency of Japanese police to label a homocide as an accident if it looks like they will be unable to find a suspect. And the high false conviction/confession rate because Japanese juries assume the charges would not have been brought were the suspect not guilty. Really Japan has an awful jsutice system based on cooking the books.

      1. You’ve also got only 75k people in prison in Japan vs 2.2m in the US. I’d wage many more innocent people are in prison in the US even after adjusting for population.

        1. I agree. And our conviction rate is well over 90% as well.

          1. We need to include cases that don’t see any arrests made on both sides of the ocean for a proper comparison. Prosecutors everywhere have an aversion to trying cases where there’s a chance they’ll lose.

            1. Yes. And the rate of “solving murders” is very low in a lot of inner cities.

            2. The other thing about Japan is the police will let you go with a warning (actually they just stand there wasting your time) for breaking the silly little laws that get you, at a minimum, a ticket in the states. I’ve personally seen countless episodes of drunks pushing and screaming at cops here. I’ve never seen even one get arrested.

              1. They don’t get arrested in the U.S., either.

                They get shot.

    2. Japan as a rule is a less lawless society than the US. And its homicide rates are going to be lower as a result.

      The funny thing about the gun control nuts is that they also are Progs hell bent on importing as many poor people from the third world as possible. They never seem to understand that not all cultures are the same and importing people from dysfunctional and lawless culture makes your own culture more that way.

    3. I’d have to dig for the source, but I read several years ago that Japan’s homicide was far lower than the U.S. even before Japan passed its current gun control laws; the reason for passing the laws had nothing to do with the homicide rate.

      Likewise, when the U.K. started passing gun control laws in the 20th century, it was not in response to violent crime but rather during “Red” scares. And New York City’s Sullivan law was passed in 1911 in a fit of xenophobia against immigrants from Italy, Eastern Europe, etc.

      1. Actually, the Japanese have had strong policies on disarmament (at least of non-samurai) since at least the 17th century.

  10. The gun control nuts never mention Mexico; a country that borders the US and whose former citizens and decedents represent a decent portion of the US population. Mexico is a gun control paradise. It is punishable by years in prison to even own a gun. It of course has a murder rate higher than Baghdad and a huge kidnapping rate on top of that.

    The kidnapping rate in Mexico is really more indicative of the price of gun control than the homicide rate. The homicide rate is the result of the drug war and generally horrible Mexican law enforcement. But lots of country’s have bad law enforcement and drug gangs. Not all of them have a kidnapping problem. With a public that is disarmed, kidnapping becomes a very good business. The US has a lot of drug gangs as well. But they don’t do much kidnapping since the public being armed makes it a contact sport here in a way it isn’t in Mexico.

    1. Re: John,

      Mexico is a gun control paradise. It is punishable by years in prison to even own a gun.

      To be fair, you can own a gun. Just not of a caliber considered to be exclusively for the military. You can own from .22LR to .38 but not 9mm or above. You can’t carry it with you, though. And if you shoot someone in self-defense, you can still be accused of using “excessive force”.

      Now, try to buy ammo… You won’t find it as easily. Ammo is among the highest value contraband goods besides drugs and immigrants. Most Mexicans, at least in the north, travel to the border to buy their ammo, a few boxes at a time, despite the fact you can be sent to jail for importing ammo from the USA.

      The kidnapping rate in Mexico is really more indicative of the price of gun control than the homicide rate.

      Most kidnappings are against small business owners or their family members. Some cases caused a lot of consternation because the kidnappers were focusing on singers and actors. Kidnappers in Mexico are especially brutal. You are right in that this is the direct result of the virtual gun ban in Mexico. Mexico used to be a high gun-ownership country, but people are more afraid now of being jailed just for having one.

  11. Limiting access to guns makes each attempt more likely to fail, thus making it more likely that people will survive and not attempt to harm themselves again.

    It may not be what he meant to say but that is complete bullshit. People who fail suicide may well not try to kill themselves again but to say they will not attempt to harm themselves is ignorant. All of the symptoms that drive you to suicide don’t disappear just because things did not go as planned.

    As usual I am impressed that progressive ideology is both fine with the concept of putting an unborn child in a blender and using the state to prevent adults from putting themselves in one.

  12. I’ve heard it argued that Australia’s gun deaths decreased faster after their draconian laws were implemented, and there were no more mass shootings. Thoughts?

    1. Since mass shootings were already incredibly rare in Australia, a 20 year stretch with no mass shootings would not have been exceptional even without any new gun laws.

      1. +1 Tiger-Repelling Rock

    2. If Australia’s most recent gun laws had any effect on homicides, it was a pretty subtle effect. Every reference I can find suggests that before their latest laws, homicide was on a gentle decreasing trend, and afterwards, it was on a gentle decreasing trend.

      And BTW, Australia continues to have a problem with violent criminals getting guns: http://www.smh.com.au/articles…..digitalxml

  13. In fact suicides in the US dropped significantly in the 90’s primarily because people started locking up their guns to make them less accessible. Suicides by other methods (drugs, poisoning, etc) did not show a significant decrease at the time. So “gun control” works if it is a voluntary program.

  14. Given what appears to be the predilection of Japanese for killing themselves, it’s not inconceivable that if Japan didn’t have strict gun control, it’s suicide rate would be even higher.

  15. Given the cultural differences between Japan and the West, it’s not surprising that strict gun-control laws in Japan would have little effect on suicide rates whereas they might have a significant effect on such in the West.

  16. As is the case with other minority opinion pushers, the gun controllers never mention anything that doe not support or favor, by their lights, their “issue de jour”. Does that surprise you?

  17. Leftist: “Nothing to see here, move along, if it doesn’t jive with my control freak agenda it isn’t real.” I really fucking hate these people.

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