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4:17 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Editorial: Suicide: Rounding up the guns isn’t the answer

In this February photo, expert gunsmith Keith Carey stands behind the counter at his shop, where he makes suicide prevention literature available, in Montrose Colo. Carey is a staunch, though soft-spoken, defender of the right to bear arms, sharing the worries of many in the region that gun control would debilitate America. Yet he’s also a willing recruit in a fledgling effort to see if the gun community itself - sellers and owners of firearms, operators of shooting ranges - can help Colorado and a swath of other Western states reduce their highest-in-the-nation suicide rates.

Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press

In this February photo, expert gunsmith Keith Carey stands behind the counter at his shop, where he makes suicide prevention literature available, in Montrose Colo. Carey is a staunch, though soft-spoken, defender of the right to bear arms, sharing the worries of many in the region that gun control would debilitate America. Yet he’s also a willing recruit in a fledgling effort to see if the gun community itself - sellers and owners of firearms, operators of shooting ranges - can help Colorado and a swath of other Western states reduce their highest-in-the-nation suicide rates.

Suicide prevention is once again in the news. I’ve noticed it moves in and out of the “trendy” topics, when it really needs to be something we keep in our minds as parents, guardians, bosses, doctors and friends.

According to an Associated Press report, “states in a belt from Montana to New Mexico are looking for ways to lower their highest-in-the-nation suicide rates, although gun-specific initiatives are a touchy topic.”

We reported that Yavapai County has an unusually high suicide-by-gun rate. It joins Mohave and Cochise counties as having among the highest firearm suicide rates in the nation.

I understand that the availability of guns in the home make it easier to take your life. However, I’m not sold on the idea that more gun control will lower suicide rates. If you are truly in despair enough to take your own life, you will find a way if you don’t get help first.

England has strict gun control laws. In 2013, that country had 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population compared to the 2013 U.S. rate of 13.0 per 100,000 population. The only difference, other than the 1.1 deaths per 100,000, is the method. People will find a way if this is what they want.

According to the 2013 United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics report:

All suicides

• 6,233 suicides were registered in the UK in 2013.

• The UK suicide rate was 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2013.

• The most common method of suicide in the UK in 2013 was ‘hanging, strangulation and suffocation.’

• The highest suicide rate among the English regions was in North East England at 13.8 deaths per 100,000 population, while London had the lowest at 7.9 per 100,000.

According to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control:

All suicides

• Number of deaths: 41,149

• Deaths per 100,000 population: 13.0

Firearm suicides

• Number of deaths: 21,175

• Deaths per 100,000 population: 6.7

Suffocation suicides

• Number of deaths: 10,062

• Deaths per 100,000 population: 3.2

Poisoning suicides

• Number of deaths: 6,637

• Deaths per 100,000 population: 2.1

“In Montana, with the highest rate, suicide prevention coordinator Karl Rosston acknowledges some frustration as the toll rises, including the recent deaths of several teenagers who used guns from their own homes,” the AP report stated.

“One of Montana’s hardest-hit areas is the city of Butte and surrounding Silver Bow County, where, according to local health director Karen Sullivan, the rate of gun ownership is far above the national average. Jolted by the recent firearm suicides of six young people, including a good friend of her daughter, Sullivan and others formed a suicide prevention committee and began distributing gun locks.”

Raising awareness among gun owners and their family members with gun locks, safety classes and more is the smarter choice over controlling a right a lot of us exercise.

Some states are engaging the help of gun shop and shooting range owners by offering suicide-prevention materials. According to the AP story, some outreach workers even attend gun shows to spread awareness.

Education is almost always the first key to addressing any societal issue. More controls over what Americans can own are simply keys that will lock up rights of citizens.

The story shares an incident that Arizona’s suicide prevention officer, Kelli Donley, had to deal with. “Last summer, Donley said, she went to Mohave County for a suicide-prevention meeting, and got logistical help from a fire department battalion chief in Kingman. ‘One week later he killed himself — that was totally defeating,’ she said. ‘I gave that man every resource I had, and he didn’t acknowledge what he was going through.’

We can give a person all the tools and help they need, but they are still in control of their destiny. As responsible gun owners, teachers, managers and friends, we can share the tools and give help as needed. However, I believe that taking temptation away by restricting gun ownership isn’t one of those tools.