Nancy Taylor is a gun safety advocate living on the West Coast.
Last year, I sent a donation of $358.16 to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The amount was the sum of money that I received after selling my Ruger revolver.
I never really wanted to own the revolver, but my husband thought I should be able to protect myself if someone entered our home when he was not around. I had my concerns about having the gun, but as anyone who's ever been married will tell you, sometimes you just know when you’re not going to win. He persisted, and I relented.
I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.
My husband struggled with mental illness and suicidal thoughts for some time, and not long before he died, he had his gun collection taken away because of one such attempt. He had threatened to use a shotgun. He sat with it in front of our house for a while, forcing police to evacuate and lock down the neighborhood until they could talk him down. Eventually they did, and order was restored. The court intervened, and his guns were gone.
I thought that was the end of it. With his guns gone, I thought we could start focusing on his well-being — and for a while, we did. But with the hired help of an expensive gun rights attorney, my husband regained his lawful status to purchase guns after just a five-year period. I was devastated and terrified. My husband had his guns taken away for a serious reason and should never have been able to buy and own them again. With each new purchase, I wondered if that would be the gun that killed him.
A single gunshot doesn’t sound like it does in the movies. Once you hear it, you hear it everywhere always: a door slamming shut, something falling from a high place, the same garbage truck that’s been outside your bedroom window every morning for decades. Suicides leave many victims behind to pick up the pieces and move forward the best we can.
About nine out of 10 suicide attempts with a gun are lethal, more than those by any other means. In fact, half of all suicides are with a gun. The damage of a firearm is instantaneous. Like the tens of thousands who die by suicide with a gun every year, my husband didn’t have an opportunity to rethink or reverse his decision. No medical intervention could have done any good.
I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.
Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.
Less than two months after my husband took his life with a gun he never should have had, California enacted a law that gives families and law enforcement an avenue to confiscate a person’s firearms and prohibit them from purchasing another one. With enough evidence provided by law enforcement or family members, a judge can issue a temporary emergency order to keep firearms out of reach. Only a few states have these laws, but they’ve already proved remarkably effective.
California’s law came too late for my husband. In the end, he was killed by the one thing he thought could save us both.
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