Caught in the southern tip of Nevada, Las Vegas Metro is the biggest urban center in the Silver State. Around three-fourths of the state’s three million residents live in Vegas and the surrounding Clark County. The balance of the population live in Reno and Carson City. The rest are sprinkled around the vast and mostly public land which serves as the balance of America’s seventh-largest state.
Over the years, Las Vegas had seen its share of trouble. October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire and killed 58 concert-goers while wounding hundreds more.
With mid-term elections coming up in about three-months, gun control is taking center stage along with the high cost of college tuition and health care.
Tia Yap, the regional director for NextGen believes gun control is high on the list for voters following October’s mass shooting. “It’s something which is coming up with voter,” Yap says.
NextGen is working to target a quarter-million voters in the run-up to November. Relying on grass-roots campaigning in the community and colleges campuses, the gun control group is also heavily spending on digital advertising and direct mail.
Observers believe 2018 may be a turning point for Nevada’s youth voice.
“In think, across the board, we are going to see a more progressive slate of candidates who will be pursuing public office,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer.
The conversation surrounding Nevada’s gun violence typically focuses on urban crime, mass shootings and homicides. The overwhelming majority of gun deaths though are suicide.
When Dorothy was nine, her father bought a pistol and started talking about ending his life. Her mother was scared but didn’t know where to turn.
“She called our priest,” Paugh remembered. “He came and talked to him, but didn’t take the gun away.”
Her father had just turned 50 when he put the gun to his head.
In 2012, it happened again. Dorothy’s son, Peter, bought a pistol, walked into a park and shot himself.
“Peter called 911 before he shot himself,” Dorothy said. “He didn’t want any children to find the gun and his body.”
“The public is misinformed about this issue,” said Wooldridge. “They think guns are used most often in homicides, but 70% of gun deaths are suicide.”
Nevada’s issue with gun related suicides is mirrored across the nation. The Centers for Disease Control says between 2006 and 2016, approximately 218,000 Americans ended their lives with a firearm.
Paul Nestadt, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, understands.
“As I study suicide more, it becomes clear that access to guns is one of the most important risk factors we should address,” Nestadt said.
“Suicide attempts are common, but usually unsuccessful,” added Nestadt. “The data shows having a gun available make those attempts more likely to succeed.”
A firearm end in death in a suicide attempt around 85% of the time. Poisoning on the other hand, ends in death only 2% of the time.
Persons inside the gun and firearms culture don’t dispute the statistics. They downplay the risks and argue guns actually make you safer if they’re in the hands of good people. That’s starting to change as more gun-rights activists acknowledge firearms can be risky — even when owned by law-abiding citizens.
If you, or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. For Spanish: 888.628.9454.