Driving back from a family gathering in Colorado, my phone beeped. I had a text. I assumed it was my mother checking on the progress of our travels. The text was from my sister and I pulled over to read it.
On Christmas night, she and her husband had a friend stay over in their home. She made him a bed in their home office. During the night, he found one of their guns and killed himself. She woke up to a loud bang, and when she opened the door to the office, saw only blood.
“What ifs” raced through my mind.
My sister has no children, so locking up her guns seemed redundant. She had no indication that her house guest was suicidal. If she had, she would’ve locked her gun away before he arrived. (I’m not sure where she had stored the gun involved; she’s not yet ready to discuss the details.)
Last night, I woke up at midnight after coming to a stark realization.
I own guns to protect my life and the lives of my children. My sister owns guns for the same reasons. My husband uses guns to hunt. He only hunts for meat; we have no trophies hanging in our home. He hunts with his guns to sustain our lives.
This time, a gun meant to protect was used to destroy.
Guns will always be used to destroy innocent life, no matter how many laws are written to “control” them. The effects of firearms-related criminal violence and suicide are horrific. But however preventable, the bloodshed does not diminish or outweigh the positive aspects of owning firearms. Which is, after all, an individual right.
If my sister’s house guest hadn’t been able to commit suicide with her gun, he no doubt would have made an attempt later in some other way. I don’t blame the gun or my sister for this tragedy. Call me insensitive, but my primary concern was for her safety — because of her proximity when her visitor fired the fatal bullet.
I also feel anger. While I wish the victim had received help, his act was unforgivably selfish. Thanks to his actions, made of his own free will, my sister will have a horrifying image in her head as a Christmas memory. She has seen what no one should have to see.
If you are considering suicide, please get help. Take it from a gun owner: all life is valuable.
Nation Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255