If there's one thing both Republicans and Democrats can agree on in Olympia, it's suicide: Both parties are for it! At least, that's the only rational conclusion I can come to following the state House's failure to pass a bill requiring universal background checks on the sale of most firearms.
According to a report in Mother Jones, gun suicide rates are twice those in states that do not require background checks on private handgun sales than they are in those that do. Yet non-gun suicide rates remain about the same. That means suicide rates overall are higher in states that don't require a background check than in those that do.
This largely holds true for Washington state whose rate of 14 suicides per 100,000 residents is consistently higher than the national average of 12 suicides per 100,000. Much of this difference can arguably be attributed to Washington's gun suicide rate of 6.5 per 100,000, two points higher than the 4.5 per 100,000 rate for background check states.
In other words: Our lack of background checks is killing about 138 Washingtonians a year. Just by suicide. Yay for freedom!
How can this be? Well, studies have shown that suicides tend to be impulsive acts of opportunity. Many in crisis who can't easily access a gun will try a less lethal means, or won't even attempt suicide at all. Indeed, a July, 2012 report to Congress from the Military Suicide Research Consortium concluded that "method substitution is rare."
So by refusing to impose background checks on the private sale of firearms, our lawmakers have made it easier to quickly acquire a weapon. And by making it easier to quickly acquire a weapon, they have made it easier to impulsively commit suicide by the most effective means possible.
It's a particular irony for the Republican caucus, which with the exception of Representative Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens) opposed the background check legislation as a block. So much for being the "Pro-Life" party.