The United States leads the world in gun violence with more guns and gun deaths than any other developed country. Each mass shooting launches the country into a debate on gun control, mental illness, and all of the gun law loopholes that have kept this vicious cycle going.
But there is another disturbing part of the conversation that is often ignored: people using guns to commit suicide.
According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers at Harvard Injury Control Research Center compiled data showing that in 2010, over 35,000 people killed themselves and guns were used in more than half of those deaths.
Although rare, some of these suicides happen at gun ranges with rented firearms. Currently federal law requires a background check to purchase a gun. However, no federal background is required to rent one. Rentals make up 80 percent of the revenue most ranges bring in, making it a difficult sector to eliminate. Yet some ranges have taken the leap believing the alternative –someone having easy access to take his own life– is too costly.
Even if background checks were mandatory, states are not required to submit mental health records to the National Instant Background Check System, leaving an opportunity for many people who are potentially suicidal or mentally ill, to pass through.
Credit: Kimberly Brooks, Joanna Suarez, Darwin Phillips, Carlos Navarrete