Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/30/2020 --For many of us, COVID-19 represents a time of significant unpredictability. We may feel more vulnerable than usual, with a heightened sense of physical, emotional, and financial stress—yet greater physical distance from sources of support. Against this backdrop, sales of guns and ammunition have been increasing. In Utah, firearms are the leading method of suicide and 85 percent of gun deaths are suicides.
Intermountain Healthcare Community Health Director Morissa Henn and Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman Clark Aposhian recently discussed the importance of creating safe environments for ourselves and our families.
Protecting our loved ones
"All of us are concerned about protecting our families, especially in these uncertain times," said Henn. "While firearms or ammunition may help some households to feel protected, it's important to remember that homicide by stranger is extremely rare in Utah; suicide and intimate partner homicide are far more common. It's important to weigh these relative threats when considering our families' safety in acquiring and storing firearms."
Henn adds it it's crucial not to overlook the basics that keep our households safe in a pandemic:
- Practicing physical distancing
- Being vigilant about washing our hands
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
- Creating household emergency plans
- It's also a great time to get to know your neighbors, be aware of their needs, and offer help or resources if they're experiencing challenges.
Keep guns locked and stored securely
"It's essential that all gun owners deny access to guns and ammunition to children or adolescents and to anyone experiencing emotional challenges," said Henn. She offers the following guidelines:
- If you have a young or at-risk person in your household, consider storing guns outside your home with a friend or family member who's not prohibited from possessing a firearm. Other off-site options include a shooting range, storage facility, or even your local police station thanks to Utah's Safe Harbor Law.
- If off-site storage isn't an option, the next safest approach is to ensure all firearms in the home are locked securely in a safe or lock box with the key or combination kept away from someone who's at risk and the ammunition stored separately. The state of Utah is offering a rebate of up to $100 toward a safe or lock box for concealed carry permit holders.
- Trigger and cable locks aren't adequate on their own but can be used as a temporary measure, or in combination with a secure gun safe. Intermountain is working to help distribute cable locks to healthcare facilities in our region. If you're interested in a free supply for your clinic, hospital, or pharmacy, visit Intermountain's Zero Suicide website and click on the gun lock order form.
- Remember, each of us could be that at-risk person. If thoughts of suicide or unmanageable stress arise, ask a friend or a loved one to ensure you don't have access to any firearms.
To learn more about Intermountain's commitment to suicide prevention, visit: http://www.intermountainhealthcare.org/zerosuicide.
If you're having thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are seeking emotional support resources, contact Intermountain's Emotional Health Relief Hotline at 833-442-2211.
Click to watch an interview about firearm safety and COVID-19 with Morissa Henn, Intermountain's Community Health director and Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see intermountainhealthcare.org or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.