I don’t think I-1491 would have saved my brother’s life. But it might save the life of someone else whose suffers from self-destructive thoughts. If it would, then it’s worthwhile.
ON or about Aug. 1, my older brother took one of his handguns, laid down on his bed in his apartment and shot himself in the head. I discovered his death about 10 days later when I went to look for him after he hadn’t responded to texts and phone calls.
His violent, lonely death has been traumatic and devastating to me and our parents. Could Initiative 1491, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, have prevented this?
The initiative would allow family members, domestic partners and others to seek a court order to have police confiscate firearms or prevent at-risk individuals from buying them. As with any rule attempting to tread into this territory, the devil is in the details.
Do you or a loved one have suicidal thoughts? Reach out for help:
Local crisis clinic: 206-461-3222 and 866-427-4747 and TTY/TDD 206-461-3219 or crisisclinic.org.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255).
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: sprc.org
Once before, several years ago, my brother had exhibited suicidal behavior — the result of alcohol abuse and a belief that he had some incurable ailment. That time, he called me and told me to come over. When I did, I found his room filled with empty beer bottles. He had his .357-caliber Ruger revolver in his hand, and said, “I’m going to kill myself.”
He relinquished the gun to me. I spent the night at his place and got him into the VA hospital, where he was admitted for a week or so.
After that, for a few years anyway, he seemed to have his drinking and other issues under control. I do not know if he was in any kind of treatment. He was very private about such things.
Recently, I noticed he was drinking again and declining invitations to do things. Something I’ll regret for the rest of my life is that I did not connect the dots and see that he was again in a dangerous downward spiral. Perhaps I could have convinced him to seek treatment. If I-1491 had been the law, perhaps I could have had all of his guns confiscated until he got through this rough period.
The problem is, I didn’t know how many guns he had. After his suicide, I went over to clean out his apartment. I found his rifles and shotguns and the handgun he always carried, but I didn’t find a small .25-caliber pistol until after I’d finally opened a locked drawer in his tool chest. Had I-1491 been the law, and had the police arrived to pick up his guns, all he would have had to do is turn over some of them.
Even if the law provided for a search, it’s doubtful all of them would have been found. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and believed in the right to protect himself, so he would not have easily given up the sense of security he got from his guns.
He seemed more intent on killing himself this time, which also might have led him to not turn over all of his guns even if asked. He probably believed he had the right to kill himself when he felt the time had come to do so.
In the end, I don’t think I-1491 would have saved my brother’s life. But it might save the life of someone else who suffers from self-destructive thoughts — and if it would, then it’s worthwhile. Besides, even if I-1491 hadn’t led to all of his guns being confiscated, it might have served as a wake-up call and started a process to get him some help to get through his crisis.
I’d give anything to live the last year over again so that I might make one more visit or phone call and have a tool like I-1491 for just a slightly better chance to keep my brother alive.