One thing I didn’t mention in my post about calls to lift the gun carry ban on military bases is the little-discussed link between guns and suicide. This is important, because the military has, since the start of our recent wars, experienced a sharp increase in servicemember suicides.
Whatever you think of the evidence linking gun control to crime prevention, the link between gun control and suicide prevention seems pretty solid to me. For example, the Washington, D.C. handgun ban and the Australian National Firearms Agreement were associated with significant drops in the suicide rate, and the Brady Act was associated with a drop in suicide among people over 55.
I’m never quite sure what to do with this information. Suicides by gun far outnumber murders, yet suicide is routinely left out of the gun control debate. Maybe it should be! There’s a perfectly legitimate argument that suicide is the individual’s prerogative. As a general matter, we should avoid telling people what to do with their bodies. And life is hard, and not everyone is equipped to meet the challenge. I see no reason to insist that people live in a prolonged state of existential misery to satisfy someone else’s sense that suicide is “wrong,” in some mystical sense.
On the other hand, it also seems obvious that at least some people who commit suicide might otherwise get past their life-grief and go on to have a later life that is, on balance, worth living. And it seems like this might particularly be the case for soldiers, who are often young, who may be suffering a variety of service-related (or not) mental illnesses that are strong predictors of suicide, and who live, at least temporarily, in a culture that values toughing it out over seeking help or admitting weakness (often assumed to be the same thing).
How that should factor into any discussion of a plan to make guns more freely available on military bases, I don’t know. But it’s something that, unsurprisingly, I haven’t seen mentioned by any of the congressional representatives pushing this idea.