The head of a committee of 20-plus healthcare officials, law enforcement officers and community advocates called a Newhall gun club’s plans to pursue suicide prevention a “game changer.”
Larry Schallert, chair of the Santa Clarita Valley Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee and assistant director of Student Health and Wellness/ Mental Health at College of the Canyons, said Oak Tree Gun Club would embed suicide prevention and awareness into staff training programs.
“They have agreed to put suicide prevention material into every single firearm they sell. To me, that was a game changer,” he said.
Schallert said the gun club donated $2,000 to the cause of suicide prevention. Nineteen suicides were recorded in Santa Clarita last year, ten of them via firearms. There were more than 30 in 2016, according to Schallert.
“It’s not a gun control issue, it’s a firearms means reduction issue. Those of us that are on the left and those of us that are on the right of this issue, it’s not a right or a left, it’s a means thing,” Schallert said.
After a representative of the SCV Senior Center asked how guns would be taken from someone suffering from mental illness, Brandon Barklay of the SCV Sheriff’s Station said the state’s welfare institution code allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms if the person is deemed to have a mental illness, be a danger to others or a danger to themselves.
“You can take those firearms and take them to any local sheriff’s department and the deputy at the counter will write a report,” he said.
Barklay also cautioned in starting a diversion program with the gun club, saying it would put the burden of responsibility on the gun club. He suggested firearms be taken to the sheriff’s station.
Last week, the Means Reduction Subcommittee of the SCV Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee met at Oak Tree Gun Club and discussed the possibility of the gun club 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 there were some logistical and legal hurdles to clear, along with the creation of a vetting process. She said many people do not want guns in their home simply because they do not have a place to store them.
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. Del Cid said he would have liked to see a program like the one the gun club is considering at the time.
The SCV 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.
“We have a really unique situation here as we’ve talked about before. We have the ability to do stuff on a pilot basis,” Schallert said.
For those considering suicide, call the 24-hour prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.