Oak Tree Gun Club is looking into starting a program for gun owners at risk of suicide to voluntarily and temporarily turn over firearms while the owner seeks help.
Betsy James, whose family has owned the gun club since 2000, said she would consider providing such a program during a meeting of the Means Reduction Subcommittee of the Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee at the gun club.
“The reality is they need a place to bring their guns,” she said. “We will facilitate the secure storage of their firearms, but to be able to provide a service to say, ‘If you suspect you or any member of your family may be suicidal and there are firearms in your home, then we can provide a secure storage for that.’ We have the licenses. We have the means and the infrastructure to do it.”
James said there were some logistical and legal hurdles to clear, along with the creation of a vetting process.
“A lot of people don’t want guns in their house just because they don’t have places to store them,” she said. “We don’t want to be storing thousands of people’s guns and have to be responsible. But we could come up with a way to come up with a reasonable service.”
Randy Del Cid, a social worker at the Chatsworth Vets Center, said he had been approached by a veteran last year and asked to store his firearms.
“He wanted to give them to me because he was suicidal, but I can’t take them,” he said, adding that the veteran wasn’t comfortable with storing them with the Sheriff’s Department. “He stored them at his girlfriend’s house. This (program) would have been awesome.”
Larry Schallert, chair of the committee and assistant director of Student Health and Wellness/ Mental Health at College of the Canyons, said there were nine suicides by way of firearms last year.
“Every single day, I talk to someone who is suicidal at the college,” he said, adding that he tries to provide resources to those at risk of committing suicide.
Dr. Gene Dorio, one of the committee members, said the gun club storage is a great idea.
“I think it needs to be done and this is part of what this committee is doing trying to figure out how we can campaign to save another person from committing suicide or killing their family,” he said.
The Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee has worked to decrease the number of people who end their lives over the past five years by providing tools for those with mental illnesses and equip people with the knowledge to help recognize warning signs.
For those considering suicide, call the 24-hour prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
On Twitter as @ajclark24