RON SCHALOW: North Dakota Needs A Red Flag Law To Prevent Suicides

The unburied lede. The close relationship between guns and suicide is a fact.

It has been my experience that when the topic of suicide and guns comes up, anywhere in the universe, the way-not-like-me people have all suddenly scored a 63 percent Smith and 19 percent Wesson on “23andMe,” so they feel related to the object in some odd way, like a close relative, perhaps. A 13-year-old black Lab named Barney, at the least.

The quickest thinker of the bunch, usually a Bullsey6698 will say, “If the suicidal person doesn’t have a gun to off themselves, they’ll just find another way.” Brain experts appear out of thin air. Nobody has figured out the brain, past naming some of the sections, but the experts explain the suicidal mind to me in one sentence:

“Deny him access to a gun and he’s off to Lowes and back with a 10-foot length of suicide rope in 20 minutes. They have some nice ladders, too. The best lumber and hardware places usually have a whole suicide section.”

It doesn’t work that way. It’s complicated. When I don’t understand something because it is past my ability to learn, I just admit it.

The opposition to Rep. Karla Rose Hanson’s Red Flag law proposal are of the type that thinks that any measure having to do with guns cannot be condoned, especially if it concerns public safety.

There is some crossover on the Venn diagram between people who don’t believe in climate science, those who understand sexuality to the point of genitalia and those who refuse to acknowledge that bullet holes have some connection to guns.

To these guys — yes, it’s mostly guys — the most innocuous of laws is a “gun grab,” even if the clunky little saying makes no sense.

This small group complains about lack of due process, which isn’t true, and evidently, every one of them thinks some unknown person with an ax to grind will break the law to bear false witness, all in an effort to deprive them of their guns needed for protection for a week, or maybe longer.

This is their leader:

  • “One of the biggest concerns is that it’s based on hearsay. It could be an ex-girlfriend or an ex-husband that makes an accusation. There’s a whole array of things that just makes this bill untenable. The intentions are good. There’s no doubt, but a lot of times there’s bad law made from good intentions.” — Rep. Rick Becker.

One the weirdest “group thinks” of all time. This isn’t the “telephone game.” People can’t just lie to the police and judges. Good grief.

  • “Becker adds recent studies overseas show similar bills do nothing to decrease the suicide rate and also adds taking someone’s gun doesn’t mean they won’t commit a similar violent act with a knife or other weapon.”  — KXNET

Recent overseas study? That was weak.

In North Dakota, there were 17 homicides in 2016 or 2.3 per hundred thousand.

In 2017, there were 154 suicides or 20.1 per hundred thousand.

And 154 is more than reside in 177 North Dakota towns. Every year.

National numbers put the percentage of gun-related suicides at over 50 percent, and it’s safe to say that rural North Dakota meets or exceeds this ratio.

Suicide rates are higher in rural areas for a variety of reasons including social isolation, prevalence of firearms, economic hardship and limited access to mental health and emergency health care services.

The teenage suicide rate in rural areas is nearly double the rate in highly urbanized areas (11.9 deaths per 100,000 in rural areas and 6.5 deaths per 100,000 in the most urban counties)” — Population Reference Bureau

This is the point that Rick Becker doesn’t care about. We’ve known the relationship for years.

  • “Digging deeper into the role of firearm ownership in suicide, Anestis and Houtsma recently reported that firearm ownership is associated with death by suicide above and beyond every other factor their team looked at, including mental illness, substance abuse and prior suicidal thoughts.” — Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2018).

And finally.

  • “It has been estimated that for every completed suicide there are as many as 25 more people who at­tempt suicide but do not die (American Association of Suicidology, 2008). In 2015, 1,870 North Dakota residents called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, requesting support for suicidal thoughts or actions (reported by North Dakota’s crisis-line service provider, Firstlink Fargo).” — North Dakota Suicide Prevention Program

They saved lives. We can save more.

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