Trying to make sense of Suicide, Gaming and Guns By Jeffrey Compton, CDC Gaming Reports August 5, 2019 at 11:47 pm I have been formulating this column since I received that sad news early last week that gaming writer and colleague Dave Palermo committed suicide. Two days later Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made the most ill-informed, insensitive statement I have heard from a public official in recent years (and that clears a very high bar): “Every night somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had.” And as I write this column, I am reading hourly updates from two mass shootings – one in Texas, the other in my former home state of Ohio. Let me try to sort out, if not make sense of, my intertwined thoughts and emotions. I did not know Dave Palermo well, but we shared several good friends, including Howard Stutz and Roger Gros. No one really knows what drove Dave to kill himself. I have had two suicides in my family over the past two decades and in neither case did we really know why. To be honest, I wonder if either of my stepbrothers really understood their own motivation and the final consequences of their action. Suicide is an irrational act. Except in cases of a recent failed relationship or a diagnosis of painful chronic illness, there is seldom a traceable motivation for an individual deciding to take such a serious, permanent step. Governor Bevin’s remark about a suicide-per-day-in-an-American casino was, of course, ill-informed, but it was also insensitive to suicide victims and their family and friends. It’s unlikely that any one problem would cause an otherwise stable person to kill themselves, especially before trying to seek help from family, friends, and the many fine organizations that deal with compulsive gambling addiction and other issues. It also insults the 1.8 million people who work in America’s casinos, who would never consider associating with any profession causing that much grief. The suicide rate in the United States is one of the highest in first-world Western countries, especially among middle-aged males. The reason given by most experts is not gambling, alcohol, financial problems, or even opioid addiction, but the availability of firearms in the United States. Guns do not drive anyone to suicide, but they do make the outcome almost inevitable. Other methods, such as pills, wrist-slashing, and asphyxiation, are usually not fatal, and the individual, months later, often wonders why he (or usually she) attempted suicide. But gun suicides, like Dave Palermo’s, are quick and irreversible. I do not have strong feelings about the gun control debate – but I personally will never own a firearm. I do not hunt or participate in target shooting. I am single. I am an introvert with diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. As I get older I increasingly dislike being among large gatherings of people I do not know. By choice I spend many weekends without personally seeing anyone (I do keep in touch by phone or computer) preferring the company of my books, streaming or long-walks around one of my favorite cities. According to the police statistics printed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal every Thursday, I live in a quite safe neighborhood. If there are any shootings in northwest Las Vegas, they are usually between related parties. The chances that I would need a gun handy and loaded to ward off a home invader, versus that gun being used to hurt a friend or myself, are very skewed toward the latter. The two mass shootings over the weekend were horrible, as was the Las Vegas incident on October 1, 2017. I especially feel for the totally innocent victims who were doing nothing but going about their normal daily lives before being shot by a sick stranger. But context is important, too. Last year 387 people died in mass shootings in the United States – and around 22,000 Americans died in firearm suicides, about half of all suicides. So while we mourn Dave Palermo and share Governor Bevin’s concern about suicide (Kentucky does have a higher suicide rate that the nearby casino-legal states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri), let’s be clear about a major culprit – the availability of firearms.