The Seattle Times Editorial Board writes: To prevent suicide and cut violent crime with stolen guns, gun owners need to unload and lock up their weapons at home.
New research from the University of Washington shows gun owners in this state must do a much better job of securing their weapons at home.
The research based on telephone health surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found just over a third of Washington gun owners reported their weapons were locked properly and unloaded when not in use.
What are the others thinking?
They must believe that no one they live with will ever be suicidal and grab a readily available loaded gun and shoot himself. They might also believe the fairy tale that their house will never be burglarized and the gun later used to commit a violent crime.
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Health and crime statistics would prove them wrong.
Access to firearms quickly turns suicidal thoughts into action. About 75 percent of deaths attributed to firearms are suicides. About 82 percent of youth who commit suicide using a firearm used a gun owned by a family member, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.
The recent study by researchers in the University of Washington School of Public Health draws a tight connection between easy access to guns and suicide.
Guns are by far the most lethal tool of suicide — 95 percent of attempted suicides with a gun are fatal compared to 6 percent of attempted poisonings, the second most common approach — reports Erin Morgan, lead author of the report published last week in the American Journal of Public Health.
Every obstacle between a person and suicide could save a life, because suicide is an act born of quick decisions, Morgan explains. A locked gun might give someone else a chance to stop the suicidal person or may delay their act long enough to make the feeling pass.
Some of the same logic applies to gun theft and crime.
Thousands of handguns are stolen each year, and many are used to commit other crimes. In 2012, more than $4.5 million worth of firearms was reported stolen in Washington state. The FBI and local police say guns used in violent crime can often be traced back to a burglary.
To promote the safe storage of firearms, King County is working with stores to give a discount to people who mention “public health” or the “LOK-IT-UP” program when they purchase a firearm-storage device.
Gun owners should do the right thing and properly store and unload their guns at home.