FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – As National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month comes to a close, local agencies are pleading with gun owners to keep their firearms safely stowed away, so they cannot be accessed by members of the home who may be considering suicide.
According to a 12-year study done by Stanford University, men who own handguns are eight times more likely to die of suicide by firearm, and women who own handguns are 35 times more likely to die of suicide by firearm.
In Fresno County, over the last four years, there have been 22% more suicides than homicides, according to the Department of Behavioral Health.
“That’s something that’s significant, that we should take note of,” said Police Chief Paco Balderrama.
Officers say more and more of those suicides are happening through the use of firearms every year. In 2020, 39 out of 108 suicides in Fresno County were by firearm.
“If we can put a dent in firearm suicides or attempts, we have a good chance of really impacting the number of deaths by suicide in our community,” said Ken Katz with American Ambulance.
This is why local agencies are asking gun shops, clubs, and fire ranges to display brochures that educate members of the community about preventing firearm suicides. They’re also asking gun shops to provide training to employees on recognizing the signs of suicide and incorporate suicide prevention in their gun safety courses.
“Having that type of knowledge, and having people on our team that are helping us prevent that, can really make a difference,” Balderrama said.
And it’s not just for suicide. Gun safety is something Chief Balderrama has been advocating for since taking his position in Fresno. In July, he ordered 10,000 gun locks to give away to members of the community after two children fatally shot themselves in one weekend.
“I think I described it as a parent’s worst nightmare. So, this is also an opportunity not just to prevent suicide but to inform people that, look, if you’re going to own a firearm, keep it secure,” he said.
Those gun locks are still available for Fresno residents, any family that has a gun at home can ask for a gun lock and get it at no cost.
You can call the Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255