I am honored to share a guest blog post from Barbara Markley, a community member and attorney from Broward County, Florida. In her post, she highlights Lock it Up!, a program that provides free gun locks and public education materials to anyone that requests them. By safely securing firearms, accidental shootings and gun suicides can be prevented. At the end of Barbara’s post, you can find information on how to request a free gun lock. Additionally, you can view two award-winning public service announcements from The League of Women Voters of Broward County that promote gun safety and emphasize the importance of locking up firearms to save lives.
In 2021, there were 48,000 gun deaths in the U.S. and 63% of them were suicides. Of all the methods of suicide, suicide by firearm is by far the most lethal.
Firearm suicides soared in 2021, increasing from 24,292 to 26,320, a record high and the highest one-year increase, per the CDC. The U.S. gun suicide rate is the highest rate in the world, 12x that of other high-income countries. A gun in the home triples the risk of suicide.
Young people have the fastest-growing firearm suicide rates over the last decade and guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teens. Out of 29 countries, the U.S. accounts for 97% of all firearm deaths among kids 4 years old or younger. 54% of gun owners don’t practice safe storage of firearms and, as a result, 5.4 million children live in homes with unlocked guns.
What can we do about this crisis? The good news is that these deaths are preventable. Interrupting gun access can prevent these deaths. A suicide attempt is often an impulsive decision. Over 70% of suicide survivors reported taking less than an hour and sometimes as little as five minutes to make the decision. Nine out of ten people who survive a suicide attempt never try again.
Safe storage of firearms is critical in preventing firearm suicide. Guns should be locked in a gun safe with ammunition locked up separately. If someone is depressed or expressing suicidal thoughts, all lethal means should be removed from the home immediately–even before seeking help for them.
The League of Women Voters of Broward has partnered with the Suicide Prevention Department of the Veteran’s Administration to prevent firearm suicide with its Lock it Up! program. Like MADD’s campaign against drunk driving, Lock it Up! promotes gun safety through education as well as the distribution of free gun locks. To date, 30,000 gun locks have been distributed.
To request a free gun lock to be mailed to you, email your request, no matter where you live to Gloria.email@example.com.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, call or text 988 to the suicide & crisis Lifeline 24/hours/day.
By Barbara Markley, Esquire, gun safety advocate and Co-Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Committee of the League of Women Voters of Broward. Her Lock it Up! gun safety program has distributed 30,000 free gun locks in Broward County.