It’s a startling and sad statistic, which happens 20 times a day in America: a U.S. military veteran commits suicide.
For Ventura County resident James Espinoza, it’s more than a number. In April of 2018 his brother, an Army veteran, took his life.
Now Espinoza is advocating for laws which he thinks might get some people contemplating suicide to think twice.
Espinoza is an Army veteran himself. As a longtime law enforcement officer, and SWAT team negotiator, he’s dealt with more than his share of suicides, and suicidal subjects. But, it’s different when it’s your family, and there’s no warning.
Out of his sorrow, Espinoza decided he wanted to try to do something to prevent other family from going through the same agony. An idea came out of this. What if the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention hotline was included in places like guns shops, and in the packaging for firearms when they are sold?
Espinoza went to Democratic State Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks, who introduced AB 645. Irwin says the idea is getting that information in front of someone in crisis when they might need it most.
Democratic Congresswoman Julia Brownley of Westlake Village saw the legislation, and liked the idea. She’s known for her involvement in veterans issues. With two thirds of suicides among veterans involving guns, she introduced a similar bill in Congress to require the hotline information be made available. Brownley knows gun control is a hot button issue, but she says that’s not the idea behind her bill. She believes it’s a common sense idea which will get bipartisan support in Congress.
Irwin’s bill has already been passed by the state legislature, and is now on the Governor’s desk for his consideration. Brownley’s bill was just introduced, so it’s just starting its way through Congress.
James Espinoza, who lost his brother to firearm suicide, admits it’s hard to tell what impact having information available will have, but says he’s optimistic about the effort.