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Free gun locks available to help prevent suicide in Utah

Posted at 9:02 AM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 12:17:00-04

All of us are concerned about protecting our 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 our families’ safety in acquiring and storing firearms.

Intermountain Healthcare is collaborating with the Utah Shooting Sports Council and key community partners to develop and distribute educational materials and more than 20,000 free gun locks to gun owners throughout Utah.

This is not an anti-gun approach. In fact, it is a philosophy we have developed in collaboration with gun owners and advocates here in Utah. Because while we may have different views about gun ownership, we agree on one thing: no person in suicidal crisis should ever have access to a firearm.

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 lock box 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.

Remember, each of us could be that at-risk person. If thoughts of suicide or unmanageable stress arise, ask a friend or a loved one to ensure you don't have access to any firearms.

To learn more about Intermountain’s commitment to suicide prevention, visit: intermountainhealthcare.org/zerosuicide.

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: storing firearms away from at-risk person. There are some key reasons why this works:

Guns are fast and fatal with about 85% of attempts with a firearm are fatal. 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 people, less than 10 minutes; for 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. 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. Suicidal crises are often short-lived, even if there may be underlying, chronic risk factors present that give rise to these crises.