A new law has two unlikely groups coming together for a common cause: gun rights activists and suicide prevention advocates.
The law aims to decrease the number of suicides in Washington by introducing suicide prevention techniques to the gun world.
Supporters said the law is the first of its kind in the country. In addition to creating a suicide prevention task force, the new law urges gun salesman to be trained to identify suicidal customers and encourages hunters’ safety instructors to talk about suicide, not just gun safety, in classes.
Before Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill on Thursday, it had near unanimous support. The Senate passed the bill unanimously and other two dissented in the House.
Mother of three, Kathleen Gilligan was part of a group that worked to pass the bill. On October 4th, 2012, her 14-year-old son Palmer, upset over a girl, took his own life using a gun Gilligan had left unlocked.
"That's what I have to live with. I left an unsecured weapon that my son used to take his life," said Gilligan.
Gilligan and her son were avid recreational shooters. She says her son had been taught to use a gun in hunters’ safety courses and knew all the rules. But one thing he never heard in all of his years of shooting was anything about suicides.
"My son had a great life right up until he didn't," said Gilligan.
She thinks her son's death could have been prevented, which is why for the last six months Gilligan worked closely with a group called Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention to pass House Bill 2793.
Standing by their side were gun rights advocates, including Alan Gottlieb, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation. He says in 2014, 80 percent of all gun deaths were suicides.
"If we can lower suicide rates, that helps us lower homicide rates that get reported and that helps us in the fight to keep our gun rights," said Gottlieb.
Gottlieb also said asking those in the gun community to address the issue with gun owners will be more effective than asking outside advocates to address the issue.
For Gilligan, it's less about politics and more about Palmer.
"What drives me is to feel like his death was not meaningless," said Gilligan.
The law also requires pharmacists be trained to identify suicidal patients. In 2014, 19 percent of all those who took their own life did so with pills, while 40 percent used guns.
If you feel suicidal, or know someone who does, you can call the national prevention hotline 24 hours a day at 1 (800) 273-8255. For the hearing impaired, call 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).
In King County, 24/7 support is also available at the Crisis Clinic of King County: 1-866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747) | Local 206-461-3222 | TYY: (206) 461-3210.
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