That’s a headline from this past Friday’s “Voice of San Diego” News Organization website. It forced me to do a triple-take because I was saddened and angry.
I know more about guns and suicide than most people–more than I ever wished I’d known. My son Kelsey died by suicide in March 2010 using a gun he’d bought at Academy Sports on his 21st birthday a couple months earlier. From infancy Kelsey had real issues with judgement, anger, and motivation. He’d been to shrinks, doctors, homeopaths, acupuncturists, . . . you name it, in my attempts to help him out. He had problems at school and was well known with the neighborhood cops. He was smart as hell but seemed to find trouble, and trouble found him just as easily. And he was fascinated with guns, and living in Texas . . . the most gun-loving dystopia in America.
Each year in America (and the numbers are rising) there are about 44,000 suicides, and half of those involve a gun. Each year in America, there are about 33,600 deaths caused by gun, and about 22,000–a full two-thirds–involve a gun. Just to make a comparison, there are about 36,000 auto-accident deaths per year (a huge decline from a peak of around 55,000 in the early 1970s). As the crisis of auto safety grew, manufacturers and lawmakers developed and regulated new safe devices, and cars soon had better seat belts and air bags . . . and today, car advertisements regularly emphasize their safety features.
Guns . . . ? Ha! Due to the power of the NRA, the many legislatures it has bought, and the inaction of allegedly friendly politicians (especially Democrats and President Barack Obama), the problem worsens (thought Obama was moving when he gave his frequent crocodile-tear-laden talks at memorial services).
But this . . . a suicide prevention event that has banned Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and the Brady Campaign–probably the two leading groups trying to address the rampage of gun violence in America–is downright chilling, and disgusting, and utterly craven.
And, from a personal standpoint, it’s painful because I’ve been involved with the group doing the banning, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention since Kelsey died. I’ve attended their “Walk Out of Darkness” fundraisers both in the Houston communist and on the University of Houston campus. I’ve donated, and encouraged and pushed people to donate–probably several thousands of dollars over the years. And when asked to speak about Kelsey’s story–I always, 100 percent of the time–talked about the needs to do something about guns.
The problem of suicide in America is the problem of guns in America (and vice-versa)! The more guns you have, the more likely the suicide rate is to rise. It’s quite simple, really.
But according the regional director of the AFSP in Seattle, Jessica van der Stad, the legistative goals of Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign, “related to guns is inconsistent with our efforts . . . As a suicide prevention organization, we are not in the business of saying who can and cannot own firearms. We are in the business of saving lives.”
Prior to the walk, a representative from the Brady campaign told the AFSP people in San Diego that “We are planning on wearing our standard t-shirts that say Brady Campaign and ‘gun violence prevention saves lives.’” One of the Brady goals “is to educate and put measures in place to prevent firearm suicides – is this an appropriate place to spread that word by wearing our t-shirts?”
However, the chair of the AFSP San Diego chapter, you know, the ones “in the business of saving lives,” replied: “Upon consulting with our National leadership we still are unable to have the Brady Campaign / Moms Demand Action promote itself at our community events. We value the work you are doing to create awareness around the effects of firearms in our communities as it relates to suicide means. And you rightly point to the possibility of our walker guests being negatively affected by any depiction of guns, printed word, etc.”
And then, the money quote, the nadir of cowardice and political ignorance:
“AFSP has formed a partnership with National Sports Shooting Foundation, and has developed a new educational program and materials emphasizing Firearm Safety. Acknowledging that firearms are a primary means of suicide, this effort is a vital component of AFSP’s goal to achieve 20% reduction in suicide by the year 2025.”
The AFSP, a group that exists in largest measure because people kill themselves with guns every damned day, is working with the National Sports Shooting Foundation, a group that exists to promote gun purchase and gun use. The AFSP had to work with a gun group to develop “a new educational program and materials emphasizing Firearm Safety?” It even acknowledged the rule of firearms as a primary means of suicide, yet paired up with a Shooting group? Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign have had such programs for years and would gladly have worked with AFSP, but were told to stay home.
I told you above about my son Kelsey and his death by suicide using a gun. His death, though one of thousands, stands out–not just because it affected me personally. When Kelsey was born, when he was a toddler, his mom worked for what was at the time Handgun Control Inc., a groups started by Sarah Brady, the wife of Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary who was shot and nearly killed by John Hinckley in the assassination attempt on Reagan. Kelsey grew up with daily epistles about the dangers of guns. I wouldn’t even buy him a toy gun. But mental illnesses and living in desolate Texas can undo the best lessons, and that’s what happened. For those of us who are “suicide survivors,” all we can really do is try to help people who are in crisis, and that means making it a lot harder for people to obtain the most likely tool used to kill themselves–a gun.
In the AFSP’s Orwellian world, suicide will become less frequent by giving shooting clubs access to their membership, people who’ve already lost loved ones by guns, instead of allowing Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign simply to appear and leaflet a rally–a simple act of free expression.
Personally, I’m done with the AFSP, and I would ask it to return all the money I’ve donated and raised (they keep good records so it would be easy to figure out) so I can give it to groups working on gun violence, and also return the money of people I’ve connected with through their “Out of the Darkness Walks” because I think we all donated to an organization based on the now-fraudulent idea that it was serious about preventing suicides . . . and if you’re going to prevent suicides you have to prevent people from getting guns so easily.
I will discourage anyone I know from working with or donating to the AFSP.
I would implore the AFSP to rethink its relationship with gun groups while excluding gun safety groups.
In the meantime, you can contact AFSP and tell them how disappointed you are in their decision to give priority to gun rights over the right to life. By making league with gun groups–who exist in some large measure to enhance the sales of guns and make profits for gun manufacturers–they’re ensuring that the suicide rate will continue to go up. And for the AFSP that means more business, built on more self-inflicted death.
Info on the AFSP is below.