One of my students just tweeted a heartbreaking murder-suicide story. Merrick McKoy, shot and killed his 18-month daughter, Mia McKoy-Phanthavongsa, and then turned the gun on himself.
In a nutshell, McKoy was upset that his girlfriend was going to leave him. He then announced the murder-suicide on social media. He wrote to his estranged girlfriend on Facebook, "I told u I can't live without u lol u thought I was just joking now me n Mia out this bitch." He then took a selfie with his daughter and killed her and then himself.
I also can't imagine the pain that McKoy's estranged girlfriend, Kim Phanthavongsa, must feel. What kind of guilt is she feeling? What kinds of support does she have?
This is a tragedy all around and it raises additional questions about gun control and suicide.
Presently, the national conversation on gun violence and control focuses on the role of firearms in interpersonal violence. School shootings, gang violence, and other kinds of homicide situations are at the forefront of our public debates on gun control. There are powerful lobbies and interest groups, millions of research dollars, and a growing academic literature around the causes and consequences of gun-related homicides.
This focus is myopic. Most gun deaths are suicides. In 2011, there were 32,163 gun deaths in the US: 11,101 of these were homicides; 19,766 of these were suicides. Put another way, gun suicides happen at a rate that is nearly twice that of gun homicides.
I wonder why suicide by gun isn't part of the conversation on gun violence and control? Is it because suicide isn't a tantalizing subject for the news or policymakers? Is it because in most suicide situations, victims only harm themselves? Why do most public conversations about gun violence neglect the ways that people use them to fatally harm themselves?