Twenty-eight. That is how many hours there are between each gun suicide death in Utah. It is the number of hours between when yet another Utah family joins the hundreds of millions of survivors in our country whose loved ones have been taken by gun suicide. A club nobody wants to join.
Gun violence is personal to me. In 2003, my brother, Jordan, was shot and killed during a robbery of his coin store in St. George. In 2018, I lost a dear friend to gun suicide.
Research shows that during the last decade the rate of gun suicide in Utah increased 28%, making it the eighth highest rate of gun suicide in the country. Suicide also is the leading cause of death for teens and young adults in Utah and across the United States. Nearly 3,000 teens and young adults die by firearm suicide each year — or eight people every day.
Anyone living in Utah knows that suicide in the state is a public health crisis, but the role of firearms is not always discussed. Research shows that having access to a firearm triples someone’s risk of death by suicide. Most people who attempt suicide do not die — unless they use a gun. Across all suicide attempts without a gun, 4% result in death. But when a gun is involved, that figure rises to 90%.
For four years, the suicide prevention module in our permitting system has taught the importance of secure storage, how to engage someone who is in crisis, and the fatality of firearms in suicide.
As a mother of a transgender son, I worry particularly about LGBTQ youth. In the 2019 Utah SHARP survey, 31.8% of transgender students reported a suicide attempt within the last 12 months. Because firearms are such a uniquely lethal means of attempting suicide, it is essential that transgender teens, and all teens, do not have easy access to firearms.
Yet, lawmakers are fast tracking House Bill 60, a bill that would not only dismantle training requirements in order to concealed carry a firearm, but would thereby gut Utah’s most far-reaching suicide prevention training and education course.
In 2020 alone, the life-saving training reached over 160,000 people. As a certified Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) trainer for suicide prevention, I have spent hours leading trainings on suicide in my own community and know how valuable these programs are.
Utah’s permitting system is effective — without requiring too much time or money, it ensures those carrying guns in public receive some firearm safety training, information about safe storage and have gone through a background check. The majority of Americans support concealed carry permitting systems like Utah’s that provide firearm safety training and ensure that only responsible gun owners can carry concealed guns in public. Because it’s common sense.
Training has the potential to save lives, so why are our lawmakers trying to gut requirements for firearm safety training? Firearm suicides are preventable and it starts with training and responsible gun ownership.
This week marks the third annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week — a week when we come together to share and amplify the stories and voices of gun violence survivors who live with the impact of gun violence every day of the year. As we mark this important week, Utah survivors will continue to fight to keep our communities from knowing the same devastating losses that we have.
This fight isn’t a partisan issue. This is about saving lives. Over 80 percent of gun owners, non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that high safety standards are critical in issuing concealed carry permits. And in Utah, two Republicans have already stood up against this dangerous bill. Right now, lawmakers should be prioritizing legislation that is proven to prevent suicides.
I have seen first-hand the difficulty of losing someone you love to gun violence. And in my years of work as a gun violence prevention advocate with Moms Demand Action and as an advocate with Mama Dragons, a group working to support mothers with LGBTQ children, I know too many stories of friends and families affected by gun suicide.
Utahns deserve better than HB 60, and so do survivors. Lawmakers need to act now.
Neca Allgood, is a gun violence survivor and volunteer leader with the Utah chapter of Moms Demand Action. She lives in Syracuse, Utah.