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Gun locks help stop suicides; community initiative led by Intermountain Healthcare seeks to enhance gun storage education

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Everyone is concerned about protecting their families, especially in these uncertain times. While firearms or ammunition may help some households to feel protected, it’s important to remember that homicide by stranger is extremely rare in Utah. Suicide and intimate partner homicide are far more common.

It’s important to weigh these relative threats when considering the safety of families when acquiring and storing firearms, according to Karlee Kump, Community Health Specialist for Intermountain Healthcare.

Here are some tips from Intermountain Healthcare on to help keep your family safe when you have a firearm in your home:

  • Keep guns locked and stored securely. It’s essential that all gun owners deny access to guns and ammunition to children or adolescents and to anyone experiencing emotional challenges.
  • If you have a young or at-risk person in your household, consider storing guns outside your home with a friend or family member who’s not prohibited from possessing a firearm. Other off-site options include a shooting range, storage facility, or even your local police station thanks to Utah’s Safe Harbor Law.   Be sure to call first!
  • If off-site storage isn’t an option, the next safest approach is to ensure all firearms in the home are locked securely in a safe or lockbox with the key or combination kept away from someone who’s at risk and the ammunition stored separately.
  • Trigger and cable locks aren’t adequate on their own but can be used as a temporary measure, or in combination with a secure gun safe. Intermountain is working to help distribute cable locks to healthcare facilities in our region. If you’re interested in a free supply for your clinic, hospital, or pharmacy, visit Intermountain’s Zero Suicide website and click on the gun lock order form or email CommunityHealth@imail.org.

Suicide is a topic that affects many of us. It can be overwhelming to know what to do. It turns out there is a simple thing that can dramatically reduce risk: store firearms away from at-risk person.

Here are some key reasons why this works:

  • Guns are fast and fatal.
  • About 85% of attempts with a firearm are fatal, compared with 2% or lower for the two most widely-used methods of attempt.
  • Research shows that people who attempt suicide with a firearm are not necessarily “more intent to die.” Rather, they have access to a deadly, quick, and irreversible method.
  • Since the acute period of high-risk is often so brief, any steps to increase the time and distance between a suicidal impulse and a gun will reduce suicide risk.
  • Many suicide attempts occur with little planning during a short-term crisis.
  • The time period from when people decide to take their lives and then actually make an attempt is often extremely brief – for half of the people, less than 10 minutesfor 75%, less than one hour.
  • A large proportion of people who die by suicide – especially gun suicide – are doing so in the midst of crisis. A divorce. A job loss. An arrest. A bad grade. Half of these people don’t have a diagnosable mental illness. They are going through a very, very bad time.
  • Research shows that people who attempt suicide with a firearm are not necessarily “more intent to die.” Rather, they have access to a deadly, quick, and irreversible method.
  • Since the acute period of high-risk is often so brief, any steps to increase the time and distance between a suicidal impulse and a gun will reduce suicide risk.
  • It’s not true that they will find another way…It’s not true that people will just die by another method
  • A literature review summarizing 90 studies found that 93% of those who make an attempt – even a very, very serious attempt – will not go on to die by suicide later.
  • Suicidal crises are often short-lived, even if there may be underlying, chronic risk factors present that give rise to these crises

Firearm suicide prevention is a major focus of Intermountain’s Zero Suicide work in the community. In addition to the cable locks being distributed as mentioned before, Intermountain has worked with partners to make suicide prevention education available to the community and to training available to health care providers. The training for providers is called COUNSELING ON ACCESS TO LETHAL MEANS or CALM for short.

Utah gun groups are active and important partners in firearm suicide prevention efforts. They’re working closely with Intermountain to build on their values of family protection and friends helping friends. Why? Because everyone in the community are directly touched by the issue of suicide and because the issue is NOT framed in any pro-gun/anti-gun terms.

For more information visit Intermountain Healthcare’s website.

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