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In 1979, there were nearly two automobile fatalities for each gun death. According to a study by Bloomberg, by 2015 firearm fatalities will surpass motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has ignited a debate about gun safety, which is typical after a mass shooting. However, President Obama, in a speech to the residents of Newtown, CT, vowed to do more to stop gun violence. If this is true, he’ll have to take a look at the leading cause of gun deaths — suicide.

Eighty-five Americans are shot dead every day. Of those 53 — or 62 percent — are suicides.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. You’re more likely to die in an accident and much more likely to die in a hospital suffering from heart disease or cancer. But if you’re going to die by a firearm, it will probably be the result of suicide.

There are 51,438 licensed retail gun stores in America, more than three times the number of McDonald’s restaurants.

Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy, told Bloomberg that it’s unclear if gun ownership is linked to violence. But there seems to be a clear link to gun availability, and familiarity with guns and suicide.

Harvard University study conducted in 2007 found that “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.”

Adolescents who commit suicide by firearm generally use the family gun. Veterans have continually demonstrated high rates of suicide by firearm. Suicide by firearm is, of course, much more effective than other methods.

Gun deaths have been slowly rising since 2000, while deaths related to motor vehicles have plummeted since 2007.

Those who oppose further regulation of guns make the argument that guns are necessary for self-defense.

The 2011 study “Guns in the home provide greater health risk than benefit” showed that a gun is more likely to send a family member to the emergency room or the morgue than to ever be used against an intruder.

As the nation considers what can be done about gun violence, the issue of how to protect gun owners from themselves definitely needs to be considered.

 Photo: Reuben Yau via Flickr

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Washington (AFP) - Republicans in the US Senate prevented action Thursday on a bill to address domestic terrorism in the wake of a racist massacre at a grocery store in upstate New York.

Democrats had been expecting defeat but were seeking to use the procedural vote to highlight Republican opposition to tougher gun control measures following a second massacre at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

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