Warning: Some may find the subject matter discussed in this post unsettling.
There have been many debates I’ve engaged in where avid pro-gun 2nd Amendment supporters say things to me I’d rather not hear, but I keep going. I do so because it’s that important. At least it is to me.
Whenever those discussions revolve around suicide by gun and a relational association to gun violence, a typical discussion often goes something like this:
Them: Suicide by gun is NOT GUN VIOLENCE (yeah, they almost always all cap me to help drive home their point)!
Me: Why not?
Them: Because they kill themselves.
Me: So, let me get this straight….someone putting a gun to their head, and pulling the trigger isn’t ending their life in as violent a manner as someone committing a murder of someone else?
Me: Would a suicide by gun be included as gun violence if the person committing suicide with a gun murders others before taking their own life….like, say for instance, a domestic violence murder/suicide by gun?
Me: How about perps who commit mass murder before ending their own lives with their own guns?
Them: IT’S A GUN GRAB!!!!
That’s pretty much the point at which the conversation ends.
So, what’s the back story here?
My first wife, Carla, committed suicide by gun…in a pawn shop…a public place of business…with customers present…with at least one store employee present.
She committed suicide with a weapon she asked the clerk to show her of the same caliber as the two rounds stashed in her pocket. Unbeknownst to me or anyone else, she’d somehow managed to purchase a box of ammunition even with almost 24/7 monitoring of her comings and goings. She hid the ammo from everyone until the day she took her own life. She knew the caliber of the ammo. She knew which kind of weapon to ask the pawn shop employee to show her.
While the clerk turned his back to her to prepare necessary paperwork for her to purchase the gun, she loaded those two rounds into the weapon, fired one of those rounds into the ceiling, put the barrel of the weapon to her temple and pulled the trigger. She died instantly.
This is going to sound really bad, but I must admit I’ve often asked myself what if she’d taken more rounds with her that fateful day, loaded a full magazine, shot customers and/or store clerks, and then put the gun to her temple and pulled the trigger? She didn’t do that, but I’ve often wondered if she had, would her suicide by gun then have “counted” as gun violence?
Carla was diagnosed as having delusional paranoia with psychotic episodes in 1996, three years before the massacre at Columbine High School. Her descent into a very dark abyss did not happen overnight. That descent was very gradual, very pervasive, and very insidious.
She hid her illness very well to everyone except me. I lived her mental and emotional pain with her. I lived her paranoia right beside her. I lived her psychosis with her at least as well as I could wrap my own head around it.
Even our own kids didn’t know the extent of her illness. They knew something wasn’t “right”, but Carla made me promise not to tell anyone, including the kids, how ill she really was. I honored those wishes. I’d do so again in a heartbeat. Why? I’d do so because I loved her. I’d do so also to try to protect her because of the negative stigma associated with pretty much any kind of mental illness.
Has anyone ever heard folks like those avid pro-gun 2nd Amendment supporters mentioned at the outset call the perps in mass shootings “loonies”? How about “crazies”? How about some other pejorative and negative label?
Their mantra? Guns aren’t the problem. Mental health is the problem. We end gun violence by talking about mental health and treating the mentally ill.
The narrow focus of that mantra on mental illness and away from guns at least being part of the problem is why so many folks with clinically diagnosed mental illnesses withdraw into themselves and suffer their pain alone….Carla tried to do that but I wouldn’t let her, at least with me.
Negative stigma associated with mental illness is the reason why so many choose to deny their own mental illness….Carla certainly did up until the day she took her own life. It’s also why so many choose to self-medicate….Carla did this, too, and it’s why I monitored her medication so carefully after her first attempt at taking her own life.
Surprised? Don’t be. Carla’s suicide by gun was not her first attempt at ending her own life. Her first attempt was to try and overdose on her own medications. She almost succeeded, but vomited some of them back up. That’s when she made a determination there had to be a better, faster, more effective, more efficient way. A gun was the method she chose even though she hated guns. She chose a gun because there was little to no doubt she would be successful in taking her own life if she used a gun. And that’s why I say now, and always will, that killing with a gun, even if it is committing suicide, is an act of violence – end of discussion.
For any readers who count themselves in pro-gun 2nd Amendment groups saying suicide by gun can’t be included as gun violence, convince me otherwise. Go ahead. I dare you.
There’s much more to Carla’s back story, but for this writing, at least, what I’ve provided here is going to have to suffice for now.
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