A question of long-standing interest to the public is whether self-inflicted gunshot wounds are causally related to poor health, death, lower earnings, and a lower probability of working full-time. Put more simply, will shooting a loaded gun in your mouth cause you to have bad health and economic outcomes?
Wikipedia reports that "ballistic trauma is sometimes fatal for the recipient, or causes long term negative consequences." According to economist Dr. Miles Sawyer, "it is unclear whether there is a causal relationship between self-inflicted gunshot wounds and long-run health and success in the labor market." Dr. Sawyer explains that "when looking at the statistics, there is without a doubt a strong correlation between self-inflicted gunshot wounds and bad health, low longevity, low earnings, and a low probability of working full-time, but correlation does not imply causation."
Dr. Sawyer warns that without a more rigorous investigation, it could be that "things we cannot observe about an individual such as low valuation of life, poor eating habits, lack of motivation, etc. underlie these well-documented correlations." To take a simple example to illustrate the argument, it could be that someone who is likely to shoot himself in the mouth is also likely to have a poor valuation of the future, and thus less likely than his non-gun-toting counterparts to graduate from college, because he cares less about the long-term benefits of schooling. It could very well be the case that it is not the gunshot wound per se that causes an individual to be unable to work full-time, but rather that this individual is less competitive in the labor market, compared to someone who graduated from college. "Individuals who shoot themselves may have undesirable characteristics that lead them to achieve poor education and labor market outcomes," says Dr. Sawyer.
Similarly, individuals who shoot themselves may also be relatively unhealthy and thus more likely to become ill, die, or spontaneously combust at any point in time, compared to individuals who do not shoot themselves.
In short, guns don't kill people, people kill people.