Letter to the editor: Suicide and guns

To the editor:

I read Michael Smith’s timely column (June 16) “New Thinking on Suicide Prevention” with interest. He refuted the argument that it is futile to put roadblocks in the way of “those who are so depressed, so determined that they will find another way.” Smith says it is not true. A 2010 study showed that 78 percent of participants who were deterred from committing suicide did not re-attempt it. Yet he dropped that argument when talking about Kansas gun deaths from suicide.

He acknowledges that the number of suicides by gun far exceed the number of homicides by gun. Ponder that for a moment. Yet Smith says “this is not the time to argue about guns … and that “guns are a fact of life in Kansas.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean that the new thinking he advocates cannot be applied here. How about gun-owning parents who have a depressed teenager, or even just a moody one, temporarily taking their guns to a police station or sheriff’s office for safekeeping during their child’s vulnerable years? If even a 3-year-old can figure out where a parent is hiding a gun, a 16-year-old will, and most certainly can find a way into a locked cabinet. Or how about friends or family members of a veteran suffering from PTSD temporarily removing guns from that veteran’s home?

Further, even in Kansas we should continue to lobby for better background checks, closing the gun show loopholes, banning military-style mass-killing weapons and all the other sensible things that most people — including gun owners — agree on. Most of all, we need to shame Kansas senators and representatives into refusing NRA money. So many gun deaths in Kansas are suicides. Let’s get creative about changing that.

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