In 7th grade, my mom was driving our carpool home from school, all of us laughing and
singing. After a long day, it was nice to think only of the food waiting for me in the pantry and a
sassy comeback to the latest comment from a friend in the car. Three minutes away from home,
we started to hear the sirens. Suddenly, flashing lights of ambulances and fire trucks were all I
could see through the windshield. We drove under the student overpass and saw dozens of police
officers on the bridge. Traffic slowed to a stop, and I saw the police escorting a group of
teenagers off the bridge. I saw blood on their clothes. And then it was behind me; everyone
turned in their seats to catch a final glimpse of the chaos. The car was silent until one of my peers
dared to ask what had happened. No one had an answer.
Later that night we saw the story on the news. We had witnessed the aftermath of a
student at the junior high school shooting himself in front of his friends. The people I saw being
pulled off the bridge were his peers who had tried to save him. It was too late.
A few years later, when I was in 11th grade, I noticed some weird posts on Twitter.
People were talking about a boy from my school, nothing like the witty banter I usually logged
on to laugh at. I read confusing tweets about people wishing they could’ve helped the person
they had loved. My curiosity continued to grow, so I called my friends and searched the news for
anything that could help me figure out why he was so prominent on my feed. That night I learned
that a guy in my grade, someone I had calculus with, had shot himself in the elementary school
parking lot. A fellow student that I was used to seeing smiling and laughing with his group of
soccer friends was gone in an instant. The next day at school, the principal came over the
intercom to announce Andrew’s passing.
I don’t pretend to have known him intimately. We only had a few conversations, but his death
really affected me. I saw his friends crying every day for the next week. I saw his empty desk in
three of my classes. I had counselors come into each period I shared with him. They tried to
make us discuss the emotions we felt when the teacher accidentally called his name during role.
No one wanted to say how confused and hurt they were. We let the counselors stand there and
stare as we sat in uncomfortable silence. I attended the candlelight vigil. I saw his family walk
through the halls gathering his things. I saw him being missed.
In Utah alone, there are an average of 578 suicides every year (Health Indicator Report of
Suicide). 578 people give in to the hurt they feel every day. 50.8% of these suicides are by gun.
That means that on average, 294 people will pick up a gun and end their life every year (Suicide
in Utah 2014). That’s just in Utah, who’s suicide rate is far above the national average. In 2016,
Utah had six more suicides per 100,000 people, on average, than any other state (Suicide
Statistics). In my years of junior high and high school alone, five of my peers killed themselves. I
saw the aftermath of such a horrific reality five times.
Such high suicide rates have been linked to minimal gun control. In Utah, you do not
need a permit to buy rifles, shotguns, or handguns (NRA). This is much less restrictive than most
states in the country. Because there are so few restrictions, it makes it easier for emotionally
vulnerable people to gain access to guns. Studies have shown that “more restrictive gun control
laws… are associated with a reduced suicide rate among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to
24 years” (Brent, 89). Other sources report similar findings. Harvard Public Health reported that,
“When widely used lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that
method decline, as do suicide rates overall” (Drexler, Harvard Public Health). Following these
findings, it would appear logical that if Utah made it harder to obtain guns, then the amount of
suicides could decline.
I don’t want to ignore the fact that suicide does not require a gun. Suicide does not
require a gun. In Utah, 24.3% of suicides are by suffocation, 19.8% by poisoning, 1.4% by
cutting, 1.3% from falling, and 2.5% by other methods (Suicide in Utah 2014). When someone
is desperate they can find a way to harm themselves even if they don’t have access to a gun. But
let’s think about the failed suicide attempts of these same methods. 75.9% of failed suicide
attempts are by poisoning, 17.6% from cutting, and 6.5% by other means (Suicide in Utah 2014).
What these numbers mean is that poisoning and cutting more often fail than succeed as suicide
methods. Notice that the gun suicide attempts didn’t get their own category. They are a part of
the “other” category and make up less than 6.5% of the failed attempts. Suicide by gun is much
more likely to succeed than by other methods.
While a gun can kill someone in seconds, other methods often take longer. When cutting
is the chosen method, most people will be saved and sent to a hospital before they bleed out.
Suicide by poison often fails because it takes a long amount of time to take effect. Drugs don’t
work immediately. This is not the case with a gun—when someone pulls the trigger it’s almost
always an instantaneous death. That is not enough time to save someone. That is why the kids on
the bridge couldn’t keep their friend alive despite their best efforts.
I have grown up in a very Conservative home. We discussed guns at dinner, and my dad
and uncles often go on hunting trips. My roots have shown me that there are responsible gun
owners in America who should not be denied their 2nd Amendment right. I do not believe that
Utah, or any other state, should outlaw guns. There is not enough evidence to show that a ban on
guns would solve the problems we are seeing across the country. However, I do however believe
that the state of Utah should make them less accessible. If we can make it harder for children to
gain access to a gun, then maybe we would have the time to save them.
Suicide is a growing epidemic in a society that puts lots of pressure on kids to get
everything right. In my life I have dealt with anxiety and depression, which have
sometimes led to thoughts of suicide. I was lucky enough to get help, but not everyone is. When
guns are as prevalent in society as they are now, when a child feels completely overwhelmed, it
is too easy to let a spur-of-the-moment decision lead to an often unchangeable action. But if we
all stand together and make guns even a little harder to get, especially for kids, then
maybe someone’s carpool laughter won’t have to be interrupted. If we put laws in place to
require guns to be more secured in homes then maybe someone’s Twitter feed can stay witty,
untainted by the dates of candlelight vigils. If we require permits for all guns, and require a
safety class, then maybe we can stop the next set of parents from crying over the belongings in
their son’s abandoned locker. No one has the power to stop every suicide, but we have the voices
necessary to possibly stop one.
Biskup, Michael D., et al. Suicide: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, 1992.
“Guns & Suicide.” The Nutrition Source, Harvard Public Health, 1 Dec. 2016,
Health, Department of. “Complete Health Indicator Report of Suicide.” IBIS-PH — Complete
Health Indicator Report — Obesity Among Adults, Utah Department of Health, 15 Mar.
NRA-ILA. “Utah Gun Laws.” NRA-ILA, National Rifle Association, www.nraila.org/gun-laws
“Suicide Statistics.” AFSP, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org/about-suicide
“Suicide in Utah 2014.” Utah Department of Health Violence & Injury Safety Program,