For many of us, COVID-19 represents a time of significant unpredictability. We may feel more vulnerable than usual, with a heightened sense of physical, emotional, and financial stress—yet greater physical distance from sources of support. Against this backdrop, sales of guns and ammunition have been increasing. In Utah, firearms are the leading method of suicide and 85% of gun deaths are suicides.
As we discussed during a recent Facebook Live with Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman Clark Aposhian, it’s more important than ever to create safe environments for ourselves and our families.
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.
Moreover, it’s crucial not to overlook the basics that keep our households safe in a pandemic:
- Practicing physical distancing
- Being vigilant about washing our hands
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
- Creating household emergency plans
It’s also a great time to get to know your neighbors, be aware of their needs, and offer help or resources if they’re experiencing challenges.
It’s essential that all gun owners deny access to guns and ammunition to children or adolescents and to anyone experiencing emotional challenges. Here are some best practices to follow:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: www.intermountainhealthcare.org/zerosuicide.
If you’re having thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are seeking emotional support resources, contact Intermountain’s Behavioral Health Navigation Service at 833-442-2211.