Local leaders prioritizing gun safety as way to prevent suicides

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Local leaders are prioritizing gun safety as a way to prevent suicides across our region.

Representatives from local enforcement agencies came together Tuesday to remind the public on how to keep firearms securely stored at all times.

"It's not about taking anyone's guns away, at all," says Ken Katz.

Instead, officials are stressing the importance of using gun locks or safes when storing firearms.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with half of all suicides firearm-related.

In Fresno County, more than a 1/3 of all gunshot deaths are by suicide.

"I know we always focus on the number of shootings and the number of homicides in our community, but more people take their own lives than they're killed in a violent act," says Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama. "That's something that is significant that we should take note of and we should do something about it."

According to Balderrama, the number of firearm suicides has increased the need for strong gun safety measures in homes where someone might be thinking of ending their life.

With firearms being the most lethal and common means of suicide death, officials say by separating a suicidal person from a gun, even temporarily you increase their chances of survival.

"This is also an opportunity not just to prevent suicides, but just to inform people if you're going to have a firearm, you should keep it secure, be responsible with it and keep it in a safe place," Balderrama said.

For Suicide Prevention Awareness Month this September, Fresno police has joined the county as well as other local agencies in creating a brochure that features warning signs for suicide and gun safety tips to keep your family safe.

The goal is to have these pamphlets available where guns are sold.

"Having safety features like safes and gun locks to keep firearms secure or to just have these brochures that are going to give great information for people who maybe looking to purchase a firearm so they can take their own lives," Balderrama said. "Having that type of knowledge and having people on our team who are helping us prevent that can really make a difference."

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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