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Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in Missouri. Every year in the United States, 350 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 700 more die by suicide with a gun each year. We have the power to prevent tragedies like these from happening, using the Be SMART program to help parents and adults prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

The fourth step in the Be SMART program is “R” Recognize the Role of Guns in Suicide. First, some facts and figures about firearm suicide:

  • Firearm suicide is uniquely lethal — 90 percent of suicide attempts using a gun end in death and half of suicides in the US are gun suicides.
  • 70 percent of people who survive a suicide attempt will never attempt suicide again.
  • Over 80 percent of children under the age of 18 who died by gun suicide used a gun belonging to a parent or relative.
  • For people of all ages, access to a gun increases the risk of death by suicide by three times.

Most people who attempt suicide do not die — unless they use a gun. A national survey of high school students found that 20 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide within the last year. And one study showed that 41 percent of adolescents in gun-owning households report having “easy access” to the guns in their home.

As children get older, parents may need to consider taking another look at storage methods. If you’ve been using a simple cable lock, you may want to think about getting a gun safe, for example. We all know how curious children can be, so as they get older and more resourceful we need to act accordingly. Additionally, if you know your loved one is in distress, you might want to consider temporarily removing a gun from your home.

Some signs to look out for when concerned that a loved one may be suicidal:

  • Prolonged sadness and depression.
  • Changes in mood or behavior.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Withdrawing/Isolation.
  • Aggression or agitation.
  • Increased alcohol or drug use.
  • Talking about killing themselves.

Click on the link below for more information and resources on child firearm suicide.

Want to learn more? Diocesan volunteers are ready to give a 20 minute Be SMART presentation to your church, Adult Formation, Children’s Formation parents, or any other group. A communications toolkit is ready for your use, full of social media and bulletin graphics, articles for your newsletter, handouts, and directions for how to share the message of Be SMART with your congregation. Contact Tara Bennett at for more information, or visit the Peace & Justice Committee page on the Diocesan website.

If you want to be informed about urgent issues, calls to action, legislative alerts, and ongoing gun violence prevention work with The Diocese of West Missouri, please complete our form.

Tara Bennett is chair of the Peace and Justice Committee. A member of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, she is also an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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