COLUMBIA Gun violence has been in the news a lot lately.
But who dies from gunshot wounds in South Carolina, and nationally, might be a surprise. People are far more likely to kill themselves with a gun than kill someone else.
More South Carolinians died by suicides with firearms than by homicides with firearms in 2011, according to DHEC.
Nationally and locally, the typical gun death victim is a white male who has committed suicide.
Its often overlooked that firearms are used in violent ways by people inflicting injury upon themselves, said Jennifer Myers, a suicide prevention services coordinator for the University of South Carolina.
Sometimes suicidal thoughts can be short-term and relate to an immediate stressor such as a breakup, loss of a job or legal conflict, Myers said.
Those stressors may affect middle-aged people more than others.
Nationally, there has been a substantial increase in suicides among middle-aged adults according to the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, suicides among white people also increased.
Of the 652 South Carolinians who committed suicide in 2011, the largest group 239 consisted of white males between the ages of 35 and 64; 158 of them used a firearm.
If someone has access to a gun during an emotional acute phase, they may act upon their thoughts more quickly than they would by other means, Myers said.
A suicide attempt with a firearm rarely affords a person a second chance, Myers said.
If someone is depressed and talking about taking his or her life, the best preventative measure is to remove the firearm from that persons home temporarily, said Robert Gebbia, executive director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Risk factors for suicide include mental disorders, a previous suicide attempt, family history of attempted or completed suicide, a highly stressful life event or prolonged stress, according to AFSP.
Helen Pridgen, South Carolina area director for AFSP, recommends checking with law enforcement and gun dealers regarding any regulations when storing guns.
If you have someone in the home suffering from a mental illness and in crisis, guns should be removed and stored with a family member or friend or stored with local law enforcement and at the very least, stored under lock and key if remaining in the home, Pridgen said.
Mike Lau owns the South Carolina Gun School in the Upstate. Lau says a gun is the owners complete responsibility and advocates they use safes and vaults for storing firearms.
In classes he teaches, he discusses safety rules, including never using a firearm while using drugs or alcohol.
Something as simple as a change in blood pressure medicine could have an adverse effect, Lau said.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said sometimes suicides can get recorded as accidental deaths instead of suicides. For example, if someone overdoses and there is no other information such as a suicide note, then the death may be listed as accidental.
When you use a firearm, its such an overt act its hard to say it was accidental, Watts said.
Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.
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