Daniel Akst states that 31,000 Americans die annually as a result of gun violence ("Gun ownership makes your life riskier, not safer," Aug. 5 ). He then claims that more than half of this number are suicides.

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Although he does not provide any source data for these figures, he asserts that by removing guns from public hands, the numbers of suicides would decrease. To substantiate this assertion he sites a drop of suicides in England when the country converted from coal gas to natural gas. Apparently it was popular to turn on the gas and put your head in the oven, and natural gas didn't work as well.

If Akst wants to do something about people committing suicide, he needs to launch a program to remove tobacco from public hands, especially our youth. According to the CDC, more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, suicides and murders combined. The moment a person begins to use tobacco, they start down the road of a slow suicide. Where should the real priority be?

Jon Bouwhuis