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Experts say locking up firearms reduces chance of youth suicide

The number of youth dying by suicide has tripled in the state of Utah in the past decade. Lawmakers, activists, and e...

Posted: Jun 16, 2018 7:34 AM
Updated: Jun 16, 2018 7:34 AM

The number of youth dying by suicide has tripled in the state of Utah in the past decade. Lawmakers, activists, and educators are now learning that half of those between the ages of 10 and 17 who took their own life last year in Utah did so by using a firearm.

Those preliminary numbers from the state are so concerning lawmakers aren't waiting for a Harvard research report due in August to spread this message: lock up your guns and ammunition.

"We know that nine out of 10 people who survive an attempt will not go on to die by suicide, but if they use a firearm, very few of them survive, which is why it's so critical to lock them up," says State Representative Steve Eliason, whose extended family has been impacted by suicide.

Eliason is also co-chair of the governor's suicide prevention task force, which was created at the beginning of the year.

Catherine Voutaz's son, Chandler, died by suicide last year. She says in the blink of an eye, her 15-year-old son was gone.

"There was no recovery from that," adds Voutaz.

Shari Elliott's son, Avery, also died by suicide. He too was 15 years old. Elliott says he was struggling in the weeks leading up to her son's death but she never thought it would lead to suicide.

"We honestly thought it was him being a normal teenage boy," says Elliott.

Tragically, both boys used a firearm. Voutaz says her firearm had been locked in a gun safe and Chandler took her key to open it.

"He managed to take the key off of the key ring and obtain the firearm. Load it and took his own life," Voutaz says.

Right now, a study is being conducted by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center on youth suicides in Utah. Cathy Barber, who is heading the project, says firearms account for more suicide deaths than all other methods combined. In the 20 years she's been in the suicide prevention field, she says gun locks are an easy step in helping parents protect a child in a moment of crisis.

"Teenagers are much more likely to get into the guns," says Barber.

Barber says parents are generally more concerned with locking their guns around small children. Research show it's just as important to lock firearms so teens can't access them.

"The purpose of home safety is if your kid or loved one hits one of these periods, they make it through alive," Barber says.

Utah lawmakers are acting now on that message. The state has funded a public service announcement urging parents to lock any guns they may have in the home away from a teenager who may be going through a crisis.

Voutaz urges parents to listen to the message that lawmakers are sending. She doesn't want other parents to go through the loss and heartbreak she and her husband have endured.

"Take one extra step, just one extra step. Whether it be key management or making sure there is a trigger lock on that gun or some biometric mechanism to secure that firearm. That might have given him some extra time," Voutaz says.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
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Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
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Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
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Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
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Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
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Montgomery5663101
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Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
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Steuben480267
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Scott389563
White383457
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Greene375589
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Newton138141
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Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
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Mahoning25988629
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Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
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Ottawa425783
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Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
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Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
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