CBC gets it wrong on suicide. The seriously mentally ill are NOT allowed to own or buy guns.
Although I’d agree that anyone at immediate risk of committing suicide should have their firearms taken away from them … as well as any knives, razor blades, ropes, any possible poison, or anything else potentially harmful that they might have access to.
This article is rife with errors. Let’s review some facts:
First, in order to own a firearm, Canadians must have a Possession and Acquisition Licence, and to renew it every five years. Applicants are required to answer the following question:
“16c. During the past five (5) years, have you threatened or attempted suicide, or have you suffered from or been diagnosed or treated by a medical practitioner for: depression; alcohol, drug or substance abuse; behavioural problems; or emotional problems?”
Responding “yes” to this question virtually guarantees a refusal. Moreover, applicants have been required to answer questions about any treatment for a mental disorder associated with violence or a threat or attempted violence (e.g., suicide) since the introduction of the Firearms Acquisition Certificate in 1979.
Second, a large number of Canadians suffer from various forms of mental illness. The CMHA estimates up to 50% of Canadians do so at some point in their lives, and approximately 20% suffer a serous mental illness in any given year. Despite these disturbingly high numbers, few mentally-ill people pose any threat to themselves or to others. It would be irrational to deprive them of their liberty or to deny them access to guns, knives, or motor vehicles.
Third, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to predict who will become suicidal in the future. As evidenced by the legions of homeless in virtually any town, our society is extremely reluctant to hospitalize mentally unstable people, or to deprive anyone of their personal freedom. As Rod Giltaca, president of Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, says tighter gun licensing controls is not the way to reduce suicides. “So, I think in most cases we’re talking about taking action against people who haven’t committed any criminal offence and our answer is to use force against them, right?”
Fourth, the CBC article focuses on firearms to the exclusion of other suicide methods, but firearms are not a widespread method for committing suicide. Not even close. Plus, shooting suicides have been declining for decades.
Hanging accounts for almost half (47%) of all suicides in 2014. The number of people choosing to hang themselves has increased virtually every year at least since 2000.
Intentional self-poisoning is the second most frequent suicide method (23%); frequencies have remained relatively stable for the past 20 years.
Shooting is third most frequent suicide method (14%), which has been generally declining in frequency at least since 2000.
Instead of focusing on firearms, the solution is to “ensure that people who experience mental health problems and illnesses — especially those with the most severe and complex mental health problems and illnesses — are treated with respect and dignity, and enjoy the same rights as all Canadians.”
Suicide poses particularly acute problems for First Nations and Inuit. Focusing on nation-wide restrictions on any particular suicide method is dysfunctional.