We’ve heard a lot of public talk this week about curbing gun violence. President Obama and Washington’s Gov. Inslee both announced executive actions aimed at reducing firearm fatalities and injuries through improved background checks and other means. Both also made the often-overlooked point that most gun deaths are suicides. It was good to hear this sad truth finally get its due.
Nearly 80% of Washington’s gun deaths are suicides, said Forefront Faculty Director Jennifer Stuber, at the governor’s press conference Wednesday in Burien. “The average person has no idea,” said Stuber. She knows all too well how a single bullet can shatter a family’s life. Her husband, attorney Matt Adler, died by a firearm suicide, making her a 38-year-old widow and single parent of two young children.
His story, and others like it, has helped propel a grassroots social movement and groundbreaking laws to make Washington a leader in suicide prevention. Stuber praised State Rep. Tina Orwall for championing the legislative cause and making suicide prevention a nonpartisan issue. Yesterday’s executive order directing the state Department of Health, along with other agencies, to move forward on the Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan was yet another milestone in the journey to prevent suicide across the lifespan in Washington.
Stuber called for the same kind of nonpartisan emphasis on common ground around firearm safety. She believes focusing on suicide can break down some of the barriers and divisiveness that have fostered hard feelings and hindered dialogue on this issue.
Speaking respectfully of “our nation’s long history with firearms and the constructive uses of firearms,” she said, “Nobody wants guns to be misused in suicide, homicide or mass murder. Gun owners and gun rights advocates need to be a big part of the solution. I know many other families who have lost a loved one to a firearm suicide. They need and want to be part of the solution.”
She proposed these first steps:
- I would ask the NRA and the gun industry to take up the critical mantle of education about suicide prevention linking it to the necessity of safe storage of all firearms
- We also need to focus, not just on firearm suicide, but on all lethal means used in suicide deaths, such as unsafe storage of lethal prescription medications
- Finally, we need all Washington residents to be aware of the role they can plan in suicide prevention and, of how they can make their homes safe to prevent suicide.
Interest in curbing gun violence and preventing was reflected in the large media turnout at the press conferences. To view some of the local news coverage, follow these links from Forefront in the News:
Inslee calls for strengthening background checks of gun buyers – Seattle Times