Police and mental health experts: Don’t wait to secure your gun
Jul 7, 2022, 6:02 PM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:59 pm
LEHI, Utah — Free resources are available to help Utah gun owners secure their firearms and also store them away from a home where someone is having a mental health crisis.
“Around 80% of all gun deaths in Utah are a result of suicide, and for youth, it’s around 75% of gun deaths are related to suicide,” said Doug Thomas, community health director for Intermountain Healthcare. “So our safe storage in Utah really is a suicide prevention strategy more than anything else.”
Thomas said to secure guns now because moments matter during a mental health crisis and they can happen without warning.
“During a divorce or a job loss or an arrest or bad grades or other things happening in people’s lives, and so keeping time, space and distance between the person and lethal means really reduces the risk of suicide,” he said.
Properly securing a gun can also help prevent theft and protect children from accidental discharges.
“If you’re going to purchase a firearm, take the responsibility to have a way to secure it,” said Lt. Bart Smith with the Lehi Police Department.
Options start with a free gun lock, then progress in safety to a lock box, gun safe and storing the firearm away from the home — like at a friend or relative’s home who’s allowed to possess a firearm, or at a shooting range or even a police station.
“If somebody is in crisis or if something is happening and they have nowhere else to take those weapons to keep them safe, then they can relinquish those to a police department,” Smith explained. “And we can secure those weapons until things have settled down and things are taken care of.”
Smith said Lehi Police and most police departments across Utah provide gun locks for free, like the cable-style lock provided by Project Safe Child.
“These are great because they work with nearly every firearm,” Smith said of the cable gun lock.
Smith recommends layering security measures, like using cable locks along with a gun safe, and storing ammunition away from the gun. Also, make sure children don’t know the code to the safe.
“Stay away from the typical stuff — dates of birth, things like that that your kids would easily guess,” Smith said.
In addition to police stations, Thomas said free gun locks are also available at most emergency rooms, hospitals, and mental health clinics.
If you are planning a community event or would like to provide free gun locks at your business, Intermountain Healthcare will provide 50 or more gun locks, along with instructional brochures. You can request them using the gun lock order form.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
You can also text TALK to 741741 and parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor.
- Parents, students, and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor.
- First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals, can chat with a crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app and members of the National Guard can access help through the SafeUTNG app.
- For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call the Utah Warm Line at 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- At Huntsman Mental Health Institute, women can access maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org, a campaign by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition offers suicide prevention training and has resources for faith-based groups, youth, LGBTQ+, and Employers.
Other community-based organizations that provide suicide prevention services, support groups, mental health education, counseling services, and support:
- NAMI Utah: education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness
- Latino Behavioral Health Services: Latinx mental health education and support
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Utah Chapter
- Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center
- Utah Pride Center: empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mental health
- Center for Workplace Mental Health: suicide prevention and response for employers
Additional crisis hotlines
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386