Experts say locking up firearms reduces chance of youth suicide

Jun 14, 2018, 10:51 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2018, 5:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The number of youth dying by suicide has tripled in the state of Utah in the past decade. Lawmakers, activists, educators are now learning that half of those between the ages of 10 and 17 who took their own life last year in Utah did so by using a firearm.

Those preliminary numbers from the state are so concerning lawmakers aren’t waiting for a Harvard research report due in August to spread this message: lock up your guns and ammunition.

“The purpose of home safety is if your kid or loved one hits one of these periods, they make it through alive.”

“We know that nine out of 10 people who survive an attempt will not go on to die by suicide, but if they use a firearm, very few of them survive, which is why it’s so critical to lock them up,” says State Representative Steve Eliason, whose extended family has been impacted by suicide.

Eliason is also co-chair of the governor’s suicide prevention task force, which was created at the beginning of the year.

Catherine Voutaz’s son, Chandler, died by suicide last year. She says in the blink of an eye, her 15 year old son was gone.

“There was no recovery from that,” adds Voutaz.

Shari Elliott’s son, Avery, also died by suicide. He too was 15 years old. Elliott says he was struggling in the weeks leading up to her son’s death but she never thought it would lead to suicide.

“We honestly thought it was him being a normal teenage boy,” says Elliott.

Tragically, both boys used a firearm. Voutaz says her firearm had been locked in a gun safe and Chandler took her key to open it.

“He managed to take the key off of the key ring and obtain the firearm. Load it and took his own life,” Voutaz says.

“We know 9 out of 10 people who survive an attempt will not go on to die by suicide, but if they use a firearm, very few of them survive, which is why it’s so critical to lock them up.”

Right now, a study is being conducted by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center on youth suicides in Utah. Cathy Barber who is heading the project says firearms account for more suicide deaths than all other methods combined. In the twenty years she’s been in the suicide prevention field, she says gun locks are an easy step in helping parents protect a child in a moment of crisis.

“Teenagers are much more likely to get into the guns,” says Barber.

Barber says parents are generally more concerned with locking their guns around small children. Research show it’s just as important to lock firearms to teens can’t access them.

“The purpose of home safety is if your kid or loved one hits one of these periods, they make it through alive,” Barber says.

Utah lawmakers are acting now on that message. The state has funded a public service announcement urging parents to lock any guns they may have in the home away from a teenager who may be going through a crisis.

Voutaz urges parents to listen to the message that lawmakers are sending. She doesn’t want other parents to go through the loss and heartbreak she and her husband have endured.

“Take one extra step, just one extra step. Whether it be key management or making sure there is a trigger lock on that gun or some biometric mechanism to secure that firearm. That might have given him some extra time,“ Voutaz says.

Free Gunlock Giveaway

UPDATE: KSL gave away around 10,000 gunlocks at multiple locations across Utah in tandem with this story. The locks are no longer available.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Healthy Mind Matters

Parent Kristen Pexton said the SHARP survey gave an insight into what's happening with her teenager...
Mike Anderson

How helpful is Utah’s SHARP survey? Parents have just days to give input

Utah parents have one more week to give their feedback on the State Board of Education's decision to pull its support for the Student Health and Risk Prevention survey, otherwise known as SHARP.
5 days ago
Jed Boal

Love Hard Foundation making positive difference in Utah teens’ mental health

The Love Hard Foundation was started in January to make a positive difference in the mental and emotional health of Utah teens. Each week, the nonprofit is getting more involved in schools and communities.
12 days ago
Carla Jones, center, was joined by her daughter and a friend at the Out of the Darkness Walk in Wes...
Debbie Worthen

‘We miss her’: Annual Out of the Darkness Walk helps raise awareness of suicide

A crowd of thousands, and nearly $250,000 raised — all for the fight against suicide at the annual Out of the Darkness Walk in West Jordan Saturday morning
22 days ago
Ashley Moser

New nationwide 988 suicide and crisis hotline sees success in Utah

The new three-digit hotline has seen a 35% increase in calls from the old 10-digit number year-to-year.
23 days ago
Dana Clemmer shares photos of her daughter Talyn with KSL's Ayanna Likens. (KSL TV)...
Ayanna Likens

Life’s Worth Living Foundation supports those struggling with mental health and loss survivors

TOOELE, Utah — The Life’s Worth Living Foundation in Tooele has provided support for those struggling with their mental health and supporting them through the grief of losing a loved one. The foundation supported Deborah Bush after losing her son Jayden to suicide in January of 2021. “It’s definitely not easy,” Bush said. Jayden was […]
24 days ago
Intermountain healthcare launched a new mental health resource that will visit children and teens i...
Ayanna Likens

A new free mental health resource in Utah will visit children in their moment of crisis

Intermountain Healthcare launched a new mental health resource for children and teens. The Stabilization Mobile Response unit (SMR) is designed to go to your home in a discreet way to help your child in crisis. The service is free.
24 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Experts say locking up firearms reduces chance of youth suicide