There’s been a lot of talk this week about “alternative facts” or as I like to say, lies. Many people are shocked — and rightly dismayed — that some would deliberately lie to the public by pretending lies are just “alternative facts.” But we know there is no such thing as an “alternative fact” and that lies have serious consequences beyond the lie itself.

Gun violence prevention activists have been dealing for decades with those who tell “alternative facts.” The gun lobby, gun manufacturers, and gun enthusiasts are all experts at lying to the American public about the danger of firearms. Their resident “expert”, John Lott, specializes in false data leading to false conclusions.

But the danger of “alternative facts” goes far beyond the lie itself. When it comes to gun violence and gun violence prevention, the lies not only encourage dangerous behavior but also serve as roadblocks — roadblocks to research, to problem-solving, and to solutions that can help prevent this epidemic that impacts all of our communities.

Alternative Fact: Guns make you safer.
Real Fact: Research shows that gun owners and their families are much more likely to kill themselves than are non-gun owners. A 2008 study found that a gun in the home significantly raises the risk of suicide (and homicide) for everyone: gun owner, spouse and children alike.

Alternative Fact: If someone wants to commit suicide, it doesn’t matter if they use a gun. They will kill themselves anyway using some other method.
Real Fact: Established scientific literature on suicide shows that nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will NOT go on to die by suicide at a later date. But this opportunity is lost when a gun is used because guns are the most lethal means of suicide. Over 82% of suicide attempts by gun are successful.

With 2/3 of gun deaths each year in the United States being suicide by gun, with suicide being the leading cause of death among Californians within one year of purchasing a gun, what can we do to help prevent this tragedy?

This week in the City of Los Angeles, Council Member Paul Koretz introduced a motion to make mandatory the prominent display of suicide prevention posters and literature at gun stores and firing ranges in the City. The Councilman called on the City of Los Angeles to do its part in providing information to our most vulnerable community members about confidential and emotional support in their moments of distress. Coupled with California’s waiting period, safe gun storage laws, and Firearm Restraining Order, an ordinance such as the one proposed by Councilman Koretz adds another critical piece to the overall approach to prevent suicide.

Almost two years ago, a dear friend committed suicide by gun in my home. I was the one who found her. I was the one who called 911. I was the one who notified her family. She purchased her gun legally at a nearby gun store. She waited the 10 days to pick up her gun during which time she learned how to use it at a nearby shooting range. Would seeing suicide prevention information with a suicide hotline number at the gun store — twice — and again at the gun range help prevent her suicide? I don’t know but I certainly wish the information had been accessible to her at the time she was picking out and learning how to use the most lethal means of suicide available.

If we save even one life, it’s worth it!

Today, Women Against Gun Violence would like you to reach out to Council Member Paul Koretz in appreciation. Thank him for all of his efforts to prevent gun violence and for his efforts to prevent suicide by gun. Let him know you support this motion and look forward to the ordinance that requires mandatory posting of suicide prevention information!

You can reach Council Member Koretz by email or by commenting on his facebook page.

And please continue to reach out to the media to make sure that they recognize and call out “alternative facts” — no matter who speaks them!

Phone: 1-212-664-4444

Comment Line: 1-404-827-0234

ABC7 in Los Angeles
Phone: 1-818-863-7777
Ask for newsroom

CBS2 in Los Angeles; KCAL9 in Los Angeles
Phone: 1-818-655-2000
Ask for newsroom

CBS National
Phone: 1-212-975-3247

ABC National
Phone: 1-212-456-5100

Los Angeles Times
Letters to the Editor

About the Author

Margot Bennett
Margot BennettExecutive Director,
Women Against Gun Violence