Panelists, council discuss how to lower rates of suicide by firearms in Pennsylvania

YORK, Pa. - Preventing suicide by firearms was the topic at a hearing in York Friday. The Special Council on Gun Violence is holding hearings across the state to discuss gun violence issues.

According to the CDC, in Pennsylvania, more than 2,000 people died by Suicide in 2017. In half of those deaths, a firearm was used.

“I think the surprising thing to someone who may not know all the information is that 60 percent of firearm deaths in Pennsylvania are suicides," said Matthew Wintersteen, a clinical Psychologist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University. “Suicide does not discriminate. There is not a specific population that is higher risk than other populations.”

The Special Council on Gun Violence created in August through executive action by Governor Tom Wolf has been traveling throughout the state to tackle issues related to gun violence. Friday, they made a stop in York, discussing ways to prevent suicide by firearms.

Wintersteen, and other members of the panel insisted people dying by suicide with a firearm is becoming a public health problem. While restricting access to guns was briefly discussed, panelists talked more about education. Educating people buying guns on mental health and how to securely store their guns. So, if they or someone they know is ever feel lost or hopeless, they don't turn to guns.

“We know that if we can reduce access to firearms when someone is suicidal we can potentially save lives by doing so," said Wintersteen. "Reducing access to lethal means is by far one of the most significant things we can do to prevent suicide deaths.”

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