Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention

Over 22,000 Americans die every year from suicide, including children and teens, local leaders what to do something to stop it. (L-R) California 44th District Assemblywoman, Jacqui Irwin; 26th District Congresswoman, Julia Brownley, Law Enforcement Officer, James Espinoza and Ventura County 5th District Supervisor, John Zaragoza at the introduction of the Assembly Bill 645 Suicide Prevention Legislation in Ventura.

By Tim Pompey y Carlos Garcia

There is an alarming increase in gun-related suicides in the U.S., particularly among veterans; this according to California 44th District Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin and 26th District Congresswoman Julia Brownley.

Spurred by local law enforcement officer James Espinoza, whose brother died last year from a suicidal gunshot wound, Irwin and Brownley held a joint press conference on Monday, September 16 at the Ventura County Government Center to detail their joint efforts to introduce state and federal legislation to assist with suicide prevention.

Irwin, who met with Espinoza last year and felt compelled by his brother’s story, introduced Assembly Bill 645 earlier this year. The bill would require California gun dealers to provide the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on “existing labels on gun packaging and on the firearms safety certification exam, and finally, on new signs in gun shops throughout the state.”

The bill is currently on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. Brownley, who currently serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is the chair of the subcommittee on health, as well as the chair of the women’s veterans task force, decided to bring this legislation to the federal level last week on World Suicide Prevention Day (Tuesday, September 10). Her bill is called the Gun Suicide Prevention Act and is a federal companion to Irwin’s legislation in California.

As support for her legislative efforts, Irwin quoted the following statistics: - 22,000 Americans die every year from suicide, including children and teens - In 2015, half of all gun-related deaths in California were the direct result of suicide - 37% of all suicides are gun-related

What’s more, Irwin noted that “though there is a strong connection between firearms and suicide, there is no mandated prevention resources at any point during the process of obtaining a firearm.”

Calling her work to prevent suicides among veterans a “highest priority,” Brownley believes her legislation as well as AB 645 are an effective way to share suicide prevention resources with gun owners.

“Labeling a gun with the National Suicide Prevention number on it will save lives plain and simple,” she insisted.

Irwin and Brownley’s bills have the support of local public health and safety officials. Rigoberto Vargas, Ventura County Director of Public Health, and Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub were present to voice their support.

“Suicide is preventable, and the efforts introduced in this legislation both at the state and federal level will go a long way as another key way of helping those in their most vulnerable time,” said Vargas.

Ayub, whose sheriff’s deputies handled more than 1,156 incidents of suicide and suicidal ideation last year, called their legislation “a real opportunity to prevent suicide and save lives.”

James Espinoza, the man who helped inspire Irwin and Brownley, lost his brother on April 3, 2018. Espinoza’s brother was a Westpoint graduate and a retired Army veteran. Espinoza believes that the introduction of AB 645 and the Gun Suicide Prevention Act is a positive step toward addressing the increase in gun-related suicides.

“Because of the tragedy of my brother’s death and the death of many others like him, I’m hopeful that this common sense legislation . . . will save other families from having to suffer through the horrific loss of their loved one from death by suicide,” he said.

“Statistics are tragic, but the tragedy is not the statistic, it’s the lives that are shattered and the lives that are lost,” said Brownley. “This bill is so smart because it is so simple. What we know about suicide is that the most effective way to succeed in taking one’s own life is by using a gun.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline telephone number, which is available 7 days a week 24 hours a day, is 1-800-273-8255. Their website is https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.