MT. HOREB, Wis. - In Dane County, more than 25 percent of all injury-related deaths are because of suicide. A Mt. Horeb gun shop owner is doing what he can to help prevent people from hurting themselves in the future.
Chuck Lovelace said he’s seen suicide affect his friends and family. He recently bought a safe to store anyone’s guns at Essential Shooting Supplies, no questions asked.
“We can coordinate for them to come in, with a trusted family member, and they can bring their firearms in and we will store them for them until they’re through their crisis,” Lovelace said.
The person would sign a contract and pay $5 for the shop to run a safety check on the gun. The program follows a suicide prevention approach called “means reduction,” making the environment for someone who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts as safe as possible.
“People can act impulsively when they’re in that situation. The most important thing is to make sure they don’t have easy access to ways to kill themselves,” Cheryl Wittke, executive director of Safe Communities, said.
Wittke said it’s important to have difficult conversations with someone who might be considering suicide. She said asking them how they would kill themselves if they were to do it could be beneficial as research shows talking about suicide is helpful.
“Just validating the person’s feelings and then saying, ‘Hey, I really care about you. You may feel like you’re a burden or you may feel like you don’t matter. You matter a tremendous amount to me and a lot of people,’” Wittke said.
To get their guns back, Lovelace said the person can come back with a trusted family member or friend that can vouch for their mental condition or with a letter from a mental health professional. He adds that people can also bring in ammo, but it won’t be returned with their guns.
Most gun shops in Dane County are promoting safe storage and trying to identify people who may be at risk of suicide, but Essential Shooting Supplies is the first to create a program to store someone’s guns.
It’s so new, no one has taken advantage of the program yet, but Lovelace wants people to know it’s available.
“We’re not only trying to help prevent suicide, but also prevent any other kind of dangerous activity that could happen. It’s not about gun control for us, it’s about the suicide prevention aspect,” Lovelace said.
Wittke said it’s important to look for signs of suicidal crisis, like agitation, anxiety and mood changes. She said removing harmful medications from someone you believe is in a suicidal crisis is a good idea.