UTAH: Is Your Safety On?

March 06, 2017
News Type:  From the Field
State:  Utah

In 2014, Utah State Representative Steve Eliason, concerned that his state had the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation, sponsored legislation to reduce firearm-related suicides. House Bill 134 directed the state suicide prevention coordinator to work with a group representing gun owners to create a firearms safety brochure and distribute gun locks. The legislation provided funding that allowed the Utah Department of Public Safety to purchase cable gun locks and provide them to Utah residents at no cost. The Utah Shooting Sports Council was selected to participate in this project.

The program is now overseen by the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Firearm Safety Committee, which includes the state suicide prevention coordinator, representatives from the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the National Rifle Association, the National Guard, gun shops, instructors for Utah’s concealed carry permit program, and other experts in firearms safety and suicide prevention. As of early 2017, 40,000 gun locks have been distributed. Using state suicide prevention funding, the Firearm Safety Committee produced additional public education materials as part of the “Is Your Safety On?” campaign. These materials include brochures, posters, and a public service announcement that is broadcast on radio and distributed via social media.

Other resources created for this ambitious campaign include two videos (one for individual gun owners and another for families) about why, where, and how to temporarily and safely store firearms during an emotional crisis that may put a gun owner or member of his or her family at risk for suicide. The videos have been given to prevention coalitions and shown in movie theatres, online, and on televisions used by gun retailers for in-store promotions and instruction.

In partnership with Means Matter, members of the committee created a firearm suicide prevention module for instructors teaching the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification concealed carry training. Anyone seeking a concealed-carry permit in Utah is required to complete this training. The module includes a power-point, handout, and a five-minute firearm suicide prevention training video featuring the chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.  The materials can also be used in support of suicide prevention efforts independent of the concealed carry training.

Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator for the Utah Department of Human Services, reported, “Our data makes the case that when it comes to firearms safety, suicide is the core issue in Utah. Eighty-six percent of firearms deaths in Utah are suicides” She also pointed out that the Utah experience has shown that suicide prevention practitioners and firearms owners have “an incredible amount of common ground and shared goals” and that “nobody wants their firearm to be used to take someone’s life.”

Planning and Implementing:  Policy and Legislation
Strategies:  Reduce Access to Means