“…suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Galatians 5:3-5
TRAGEDY UPON TRAGEDY. A thirteen year old boy accidentally shot and killed his friend, called 911 to report the act and then, out of grief and guilt, killed himself. They had found a gun in the home. Curious fun. Easy access. Sudden death.
THE TRUIST TRUISM is: Easy access to guns in the home dramatically increases the odds of suicide by gun. The analytics shine the truth.
David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at Harvard School of Public Health, and Director of Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, speaks for the evidence: “All the U.S. evidence continues to indicate that gun availability makes it far more likely that suicide attempters will use a gun and die.” Similarly, the National Research Council postulates, “All of the (case control) studies that the committee has reviewed have found a positive association between household gun ownership and suicide risk.”
But there is a SECOND TRUISM: Guns are a reality. Gun ownership is permitted. Guns are a source of recreation and defense. Gun owners’ mental health is similar to non-gun owners. All true. The question then is: If both TRUTHS ARE TRUE, how can gun owners prioritize prevention of gun suicide? Here are some guidelines to ponder:
1. Lock up guns in a gun safe, non-glass container. Consider purchasing a biometric gun safe that you can open with your fingerprint. They are available from Walmart for about $100. (Protect Minnesota) Consider securing guns in a storage facility.
2. Make certain guns are unloaded.
3. Separate guns from ammunition.
4. Lock up ammunition in a container separate from the guns.
5. If a household member is in personal distress and has access to a gun, temporarily remove the weapon from the house and give it to a friend or to the authorities.
6. Before you send your child to someone else’s home to play, sleep over, babysit or a birthday party, ASK if there are unsecured guns in the home. If you have any doubts, move the event to your house instead. Your child’s life is worth it. (Protect Minnesota)
7. At least, put a gun in a more distant area of your house or outside of your house to create a time space between suicide contemplation and action. Remember, suicide is often an impulsive act. David Hemenway says, “Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90% do not go on to die by suicide.”
8. Consider living “gun free”, without any guns.
9. Gather friends and neighbors for an in-home conversation on suicide and guns.
10. Attach trigger locks to guns.
BUT THERE ARE UNBELIEVERS. Hemenway cautions, “Our recent (2015) national representative survey finds that Americans do not believe that a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide.”
Do you want to roll the dice?
The good news during times of personal crisis is that safety measures can be activated to help prevent suicide which gives us hope for saving lives and preventing gun suicide tragedy.
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes