Over the past five years, the congregation that I serve has experienced one suicide per year. They only have 180 members. In my church, the suicide rate is 1 out of 180 every year. Why is that?
Research indicates two main contributing factors:
I remember one church member who had a lifelong career in law enforcement. As his dementia grew worse, he got angrier and angrier at his wife who was his main caregiver. One day he shot her as well as himself to death.
Another church member is – at least to my knowledge – not diagnosed with a mental health problem. But his wife as the primary caregiver is concerned about his passion for his rifle, shotgun, and pistols. At one point, church volunteers were able to help the wife secure the weapons. But by now, he has gained access again and her anxiety is on the rise again.
What these two men have in common is that both had given up driving a long time ago. In their 80ies, they simply were not fit enough to operate machinery that can endanger lives at a significant scale. I wish their families had used that time to also have the gun talk. I propose the following policy for families, caregivers, religious institutions, healthcare providers and anybody who helps manage the lives of senior citizens:
NO CAR NO GUN
Or: when it’s time for grandpa to give up the truck, he also needs to give up the rifle.
This is not an infringement upon second amendment rights. Obviously, there is no age limit on constitutional rights but this is a voluntary action. Gun owners usually are concerned about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. Those difficult conversations occur around driving when it does not appear safe anymore. Firearms like motor vehicles have the potential to cause significant harm to the user and the people around them. When you have the “car talk” with a loved one, it is good practice to also ask them to surrender their guns.