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SALT LAKE CITY — Ninety-nine percent of murder and suicide attempts among teens happen at home, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. The Utah Department of Health said professionals treat about two cases each day in the Beehive State.
A new Utah group is pushing gun owners to better lock up their guns and remove the threat, but some would suggest that isn’t enough.
To begin with, doctors say they cannot keep up with suicidal tendencies.
“A lot of us are ill-equipped to deal with those mental health issues,” said pediatrician Claudia Fruin, adding that impulsive, desperate teens form the bulk of her cases.
“Suicides often happen, or are thought about, five to ten minutes before they actually take place, without a thought that tomorrow is going to be OK,” she said.
That’s why she formed Bulletproof Kids Utah. Miriam Walkingshaw with Utah Parents Against Gun Violence said the new group is teaming up with sellers of safes to get gun owners to lock up more often.
“We realize it’s unrealistic to tell people with kids not to keep guns in their homes,” Walkingshaw said.
- Cable lock: A two piece lock that fits through the trigger guard
- Trigger lock: A two piece lock that fits through the trigger guard
- Personalized lock: A safety device permanently installed on a gun by the maker or owner
- Lock box: A small safe designed to store a gun/guns or ammunition
- Gun vault or safe: Firearms or ammunition are locked inside the vault. A push-button, combination or digital keypad opens the lock
These women are gun owners, but Monica Bellenger, executive vice president of Bulletproof Kids, said the group has already taken heat. One criticism she often hears:
“If I have this in my home, and I have children and I’m trying to protect my kids, am I still going to be able to access it when I need it?” she said.
“It’s shortsighted to think that just locking up a firearm is going to protect your kids from all firearms,” said Clark Aposhian, president of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.
He said gun education must go with lockups. But how young is too young to teach about guns?
“The moment they ask about it, teach them to their level of understanding,” Aposhian advised.
He’s had 4- and 5-year-old kids in his gun safety classes. That doesn’t mean they should handle the firearms, he said.
“Sometimes, we don’t go into the trigger finger if kids aren’t going to be shooting. We just tell them how to hold the gun, and that doesn’t even involve the trigger,” Aposhian said.
But Steve Frandsen of Alpine said a gun safe is a great start. When he was a kid, his friend’s 5-year-old brother “got into his dad’s firearms and ended up shooting himself in the stomach. It was several days, we didn’t know if he was going to live,” he said.
The boy did survive, but as a teenager, Frandsen knew another teen who was shot and killed accidentally when his gun went off during a hunting trip. Frandsen started A-One Safe and Vault Services in Alpine because his young kids asked about his guns.
He knows gun safes can cost thousands of dollars, but, “Even if it’s as simple as using a cable lock, you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money to keep guns secured,” he said.