"That's a difference in the African American community," she said. "We don't teach our kids to go hunting and shoot. We don't have guns in our homes."
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Contrasting life experiences, whether from a family member's suicide or the death of a relative in a homicide, drive the nation's split over an essential element of the gun debate: Would fewer guns save lives? Survivors of homicide victims consistently tell pollsters that the answer is yes, but the response to suicide is different.
"We have less empathy with those who take their own lives," said Sean Joe, an expert on suicide and violence at the University of Michigan. "So we don't have the same national outcry. The key argument for me is that increased access to firearms increases suicide and homicide."
Scholars say it is no coincidence that places in the United States with high suicide rates also have high gun ownership rates. By contrast, the states with the lowest gun ownership rates tend to have the lowest suicide rates.
Eleanor Hamm works at the statewide suicide hotline for Colorado, which has high rates of gun ownership and suicide. Her suicide-prevention program is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology, but her experience with guns, which started when she got her first at 6, puts her closer to the NRA than the suicide association.
"The Western region is the highest region in suicide," she said in an interview. "Out here, we own guns. You're not ever going to get the guns away from anybody. What we can do is a better job of mental health. That will make a difference."
Hamm, echoing the NRA position, said people without access to guns will kill themselves by other means. "It's easy for the passion of the day to look at gun control," she said. "It's missing the point of mental health and what is really, truly taking place."