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How you can save your community members.

Gun-violence and its connection to suicides

By: Annika Gutzke

Everyone can be an advocate, you just need to be brave enough to share your voice and your story. In this photo I am leading a school wide walkout for gun-violence awareness, prevention, and remembrance for the victims.

Gun violence impacts everyone, in every state in the United States. It can vary from random acts of gun violence, terrorism, mass shootings, suicides, homicides, and more. All are extremely hurtful to the victims and the families, friends, and communities of the victims. Even if people commit these acts and cause this damage, the gun is the weapon that actually does the harm. Unfortunately, because of some politician’s stance on freedom and because many interest groups like the NRA pay them large sums of money to support gun rights, it is very difficult to pass gun control laws. It is such a hot button issue that we can often not even talk about it, and if we can not talk about it, the issue will never be resolved. We need to put the safety of our communities above the interest of big lobby groups.

We need to put the safety of our communities above the interest of big lobby groups.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals include “Good Health and Well-being” and “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institution” and when gun violence is prevalent these goals are not achievable. Guns can cause death or severe injury, either to the person possessing it or the person that it is used on, and this drastically hinders well-being. When gun-violence occurs, peace is impossible. Communities cannot develop sustainably with gun-violence.

Gun Violence in Minnesota

I want to make a real difference in my home state. In Minnesota, the most prominent form of gun violence are suicides. In 2016, 432 people died from gun violence, and 332 of those were suicides. That means that almost 70% of gun deaths are from suicides. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for people between ages 10 and 34. It needs to be more difficult to access guns, but in order to decrease the amount of suicides we need to have better mental health counseling in schools and at a lower cost for the general public. As a society we also need to be more open about mental health so people are more willing to seek help.

Mental Health and Gun-Violence

In the United States, one in five adults experience mental illness. Mental illness does not mean that one is suicidal, but often depressive episodes can lead to suicidal thoughts or suicide. If people that struggle with their mental health have access to guns, it makes suicide a more prevalent option during one of these hard times. There is a balance when dealing with whether people with mental illnesses should have access to guns, because plenty of people with mental illnesses are totally stable. The laws that help prevent people at higher risk for suicide from getting access to a gun are safe storage laws, background check laws, and red flag laws.

Gun-Violence Prevention Laws

Safe storage laws require that gun owners secure their guns in a safe way by keeping them out of the access of others that should not have access to them. This is part of being a responsible gun owner, and luckily Minnesota does have safe storage laws in effect. Under federal law, it is illegal to sell or give a gun to someone “knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” Background check laws are an important part of this. Although there are many people with mental illness who have no evidence of it, this law does help in some ways. In Minnesota, there is not a universal background check law. This means that if someone buys a gun through a licenced gun store, they need to go through the background check process, but if they buy the gun through a private seller or a gun show, they do not need to go through a background check. This is extremely dangerous. We need to implement this law and lobby for it to pass in Minnesota in order to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. The most important gun law to prevent suicides is the red flag law. This will allow family members or friends of the gun owner to petition the state and express that the person is a danger to themself or others, and their guns can temporarily be taken away. So if someone’s family member or friend was going through an intense depressive state, they could tell Minnesota that they are a danger to themselves, and Minnesota government could take away their guns until they are stable again. This has the potential to save many lives. As of right now, the red flag law in Minnesota has been passed in committee, but now they need to pass in the House.

Politics + Gun-Violence/ Suicides

In order to combat the amount of suicides in the United States, too many caused by guns, we need to lobby for more strict gun laws and more funding for mental health treatment in schools and more resources for adults with mental health issues. This will not only save invaluable lives, but it will also save the United States a lot of money. Every year, mental illness costs America almost $200 billion. So if politicians do not care enough about these individuals to do something about it, that big price tag might convince them otherwise. On top of lobbying for more funding for mental healthcare, red flag laws, universal background checks, and safe storage laws are also vital to saving the lives of so many people.

How YOU can make a difference!

Minnesota

If you’re from Minnesota… look up who your state representative is and either call or email them to ask for them to support more funding for mental healthcare, red flag laws, and universal background checks. Some government officials to reach out to are Governor Tim Walz (651-201-3400), or go to the website https://mn.gov/governor/contact/ and send an email to the governor’s office. You can also reach out to our senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (Klobuchar: 202-224-3244, Smith: 651-221-1016) or you can go to https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/email-amy and https://www.smith.senate.gov/share-your-opinion respectively.

United States

If you’re from the United States… you can also reach out to your representatives. You can go to this website: https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/ and look up your location to find your representatives and contact them.

International

Another way to prevent suicides is to erase the stigma around mental health. In the United States, there is a culture of independence and this leads to a resistance to ask for help when we need it. Too often when people talk about their mental health, they are looked at as weak. This is completely false, and is a myth that we need to dispel. To help erase the stigma, talk about your mental health openly with others. This might be difficult, but it will lessen the stigma. Also, support others that are going through a tough time with their mental health. Make them feel validated and ask them what they need and how you can help.

What I will do

To make a difference myself, I will have a letter writing session at my school for people to find their representatives and write letters (or emails) to them regarding funding for mental healthcare, red flag laws, and universal background checks. This will not only create an influx of letter for Minnesota representatives, but it will also teach other students how easy it is to contact our representatives and make our voice heard.

And most importantly, if you or someone you know is suicidal, please call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Please take what you have learned through this site and reach out to your representatives and be an advocate for mental health and safe gun laws.

Resources:

“10 Essential Facts About Guns and Suicide.” The Trace, 4 Apr. 2019, www.thetrace.org/2016/09/10-essential-facts-guns-suicide/.

“15 Statistics That Tell the Story of Gun Violence in 2015.” The Trace, 2 Oct. 2018, www.thetrace.org/2015/12/gun-violence-stats-2015/.

Alpers, Philip. “Guns in Minnesota – Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control.” Gun Law and Policy: Firearms and Armed Violence, Country by Country, www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/minnesota.

Associated Press. “Minnesota House Committee Approves ‘Red Flag’ Gun Violence Bill.” Twin Cities, Twin Cities, 1 Mar. 2019, www.twincities.com/2019/02/28/minnesota-house-committee-approves-red-flag-gun-violence-bill/.

“Background Checks in Minnesota.” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 11 Oct. 2018, lawcenter.giffords.org/background-checks-in-minnesota/.

“Background Checks in Minnesota.” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 11 Oct. 2018, lawcenter.giffords.org/background-checks-in-minnesota/.

Bowerman, Mary. “#MentalHealthMonth: Mental Health in America, by the Numbers.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 May 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/03/mental-health-month-united-states-stats-on-mental-illness/101238906/.

“Firearms Used in Six Percent of Suicide Attempts.” The Truth About Guns, 25 Sept. 2017, www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2017/09/robert-farago/firearms-used-six-percent-suicide-attempts/.

“Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard.” Gun Law Scorecard, lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard/#MN.

“Minnesota.” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/state-law/minnesota/.

“NAMI.” NAMI, www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers.“Reality Check: Gun Deaths In Minnesota.” WCCO | CBS Minnesota, WCCO | CBS Minnesota, 28 Feb. 2018, minnesota.cbslocal.com/2018/02/28/reality-check-gun-deaths/.

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 27, 2019 by Julia.Kashimura

    I really liked the images you included. The pie chart was very informative and the images with guns and humans that are filled with colors were very creative and easy to visualize. I just wish you added a featured image to make this page stand out more.

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