The Target Sports Range in Royal Oak, Michigan, after experiencing 12
suicide attempts in as many years, instituted a policy preventing
individuals from obtaining a gun if they are not known by range
instructors. A list of those denied access to a firearm is maintained;
those individuals will be turned away in the future.
Commissioner Peggy Goodwin praised the proactive response. “If these
were homicides, something would have been done after the first one.
Because it’s suicide no one wants to even talk about it. I want to talk
about preventing it.”
It isn’t just in Michigan. The Orange County
Register, using data from coroners’ reports, documented 64 suicides at
public ranges in three California counties in the 12-year period
studied. The common denominator is easy, unregulated access to a
The Daily Times headline was: “Should firing ranges be
age-restricted?” What we know about brain development and function tells
us clearly the answer is “yes.” The last segment of the brain to be
fully developed and integrated into the rest of the brain’s functions is
the prefrontal area. This is where we learn to assess the long-term
implications of actions, control impulses and make basic value
In some cases this development is not complete until
age 25. In the Arizona case, clearly accidental and not a failure of
judgment, brain maturation was probably not at fault. But with
range-related suicides of young people, it is.
Should we put
deadly weapons into the hands of young people at all? Is the wise
solution, as Arie Klapholz suggested, to “teach young persons to
properly use and respect guns and rifles?” One common reaction to the
suicide of a young person in a gun-owning household is “I don’t
understand it — he was trained to use guns safely.”
In the work we do at the Worcester County Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program, we have learned this the hard way.
rates of youth homicide and gun-related accidental deaths and youth
suicide on the rise, it is undeniably in society’s best interests to
keep guns out of the hands of young people.