The United States saw an increase of 30 per cent in suicides among middle-aged Americans from 1999 to 2010. More Americans now die from suicide than from automobile accidents with rates highest in the "suicide belt"—the eight mountain states and Alaska.
In Montana, for example, 227 people died from suicide in 2010, twice the national average. Matt Kuntz,
executive director of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on
Mental Illness, referred to "Montana's suicide epidemic" as a "public health crisis.” The high suicide rate is attributed to a number of factors including a lack of mental health facilities, a cowboy culture, isolation, and the availability of guns. Two-thirds of the suicides are committed with firearms.
Montana ranks third in the nation for per capita gun possession, and guns are the most effective way of committing suicide. One study showed that in the 15 states with the highest firearm ownership, twice as many people were successful in committing suicide as in the six states with the lowest firearm
ownership. Just as they are the most efficient way of killing others, guns are the most efficient way of killing yourself.
To help reduce the slaughter, health workers in Montana are now giving out thousands of free trigger locks. I've heard of handing out free condoms—this is the first time I've heard of handing out free trigger locks. But then the American West is a gun culture, and in a gun culture, trigger locks may very well be the more important prophylactic.