Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) held a press conference to discuss the importance of implementing firearm suicide prevention legislation. Brownley and Irwin were joined by Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, and James Espinoza, a suicide prevention advocate.
As part of National Suicide Prevention Week, Brownley introduced the Gun Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 4271) to address the alarming rate of suicides by firearms, particularly among veterans. This bill would require firearm manufacturers and retailers to include warning labels that provide the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The bill was inspired by Assembly Bill 645, introduced by Irwin earlier this year, and is awaiting California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.
“Our nation’s gun violence epidemic is tearing communities apart, and far too often, the debate surrounding gun safety overlooks the role that guns play in suicide. There are a number of heart-wrenching statistics around suicide with guns. Oftentimes, making a connection with another person when in crisis can make all the difference in saving a life. By labeling every firearm with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, we can help provide that critical connection for people and remind those in a moment of crisis that there is always someone they can turn to for help,” said Congresswoman Brownley.
“Losing a loved one to firearm suicide is a tragedy no one should have to face,” said Assemblymember Irwin. “AB 645 is a commonsense measure to ensure that individuals in crisis have immediate access to a lifesaving resource. I urge the governor to sign this bill to save lives.”
Below are Congresswoman Brownley’s remarks as prepared:
Congresswoman Brownley. Thank you, Jacqui, for your leadership in addressing this public health crisis which has had such a profound impact on communities across America. And, thank you for joining us here today to bring awareness and attention to the suicide epidemic our country is facing.
In 2017, 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide. That is tragic and sad enough, but even more tragically is that over 47,000 American succeeded at taking their own lives. In fact, in the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. That is shocking and a revelation that must change.
But we can save many, many, more lives through smart policies that help to prevent suicide.
The statistics are tragic, but the tragedy is not the statistic, it’s the lives that are shattered, and the lives that are lost.
Losing any loved one is painfully traumatic. But losing someone to a preventable suicide, is unimaginable.
That is why when Jacqui introduced her bill in Sacramento, I told her I wanted to make it not only the law of the great state of California, but the law of the land. And, on World Suicide Prevention Day last week, I introduced the Gun Suicide Prevention Act, a federal companion to the bill Jacqui introduced in the state legislature earlier this year.
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.
While our own country mourns the tragic and brutal deaths form gun violence — most recently in El Paso and Dayton and, of course, almost a year ago our own tragedy at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks — we also need to know that two-thirds of gun deaths in U.S. are from suicides.
I work very hard, as a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to better the lives of veterans. Suicide prevention is our highest priority. We lose 20 veterans a day to suicide, 70 % percent of veteran suicide deaths are from a gun.
Our bills are clear and they are simple.
Labeling a gun with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on it, will save lives. Plain and simple.
The alarming suicide rate of our country is not only a public health issue, but a public safety one too. That’s why I also want to thank Rigoberto Vargas, our county public health director, and Sheriff Ayub for being here today.
I want to especially thank James Espinoza, who shared his family’s personal story of his veteran brother who we lost to suicide and who inspired the creation of this bill. He will come up here shortly to share his story with you too.
The suicide crisis in America is one that we cannot tackle alone, and I’m pleased to be working with stakeholders at the federal, state, and local level to take action to curb the prevalence of suicide in our society. We need action now.
I will close my remarks by saying this: I want to remind everyone that if they or anyone they know is contemplating suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always open. That number is 1-800-273-8255, again it is 1-800-273-TALK.
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Watch the press conference, here.