As a member of the clergy, I have intervened in situations where people have contemplated taking their own lives, and I have consoled the loved ones left behind. I have also observed how suicide has personally affected members of my own family.
The increased awareness and public conversation about suicide is a welcome and much-needed development. What many people miss in the discussion, though, is the fact that half of the lives that end this way each year involve a firearm. In fact, of the 33,800 lives lost annually to gun violence, more than 21,000 are suicides by a gun. The use of a gun in a suicide attempt increases the likelihood of death astronomically. When a gun is present, men especially are far more likely to succeed in taking their own lives.
A gun is different from any other means someone might choose to bring about their own death. Its immediacy allows it to be used spontaneously, and there is almost never a second chance with a pistol or a rifle. A bullet is carefully engineered to be lethal and is virtually guaranteed to be so when used point blank. Mental illness, depression, and despair coupled with a gun must be taken seriously. Many mental health, family, and law-enforcement groups have advocated for ERPOs, or Emergency Risk Protective Orders, which allow judges to prohibit firearms in close proximity to someone who may pose a threat to him- or herself because of mental or emotional distress.
Suicide should be a matter of concern for all of us, regardless of the particular circumstances. For those who, like me, believe strongly in the inherent value of every human life, temporarily removing powerfully lethal weapons from those who pose a threat to themselves simply makes sense. As a Christian and a minister, I believe we should do everything we can to help people safely survive their lowest moments. As a pro-life activist who has for decades advocated for a culture of life, I believe public policy should protect the most vulnerable from death—including death by one's own hand.
One way to protect the vulnerable is to allow local law enforcement to ensure that a suicide-prone person does not have access to a gun. In the Bible, the book of Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 27 reads, "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it." Limiting access to deadly firearms in extreme situations with the purpose of protecting life is definitely in our power to do.