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Suicide Prevention Walk Organizers Tell Gun Control Advocates to Keep Away

A suicide prevention walk in San Diego Saturday will feature pamphlets with gun safety tips co-created by a gun lobbying group, but gun-control advocates will not be allowed to distribute materials.

“Their organization’s legislative stance related to guns is inconsistent with our efforts,” said Jessica van der Stad, regional director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “As a suicide prevention organization, we are not in the business of saying who can and cannot own firearms. We are in the business of saving lives.”

Van der Stad was referring to the local Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group, which sought a booth at this weekend’s “Out of the Darkness” community walk. Another local gun control group was also told not to promote their cause if they attend, emails shared with Voice of San Diego show.

On Thursday, Vicki Shepperd Chin with the San Diego Brady Campaign, gave the suicide prevention group a head’s up about their plans.

“We are planning on wearing our standard t-shirts that say Brady Campaign and ‘gun violence prevention saves lives,’” wrote Shepperd Chin in an email to the organizers of the march. One of the goals “is to educate and put measures in place to prevent firearm suicides – is this an appropriate place to spread that word by wearing our t-shirts?”

Che Hernandez, chair of the suicide prevention foundation’s San Diego chapter, replied: “Upon consulting with our National leadership we still are unable to have the Brady Campaign / Moms Demand Action promote itself at our community events. We value the work you are doing to create awareness around the effects of firearms in our communities as it relates to suicide means. And you rightly point to the possibility of our walker guests being negatively affected by any depiction of guns, printed word, etc.”

She went on.

“AFSP has formed a partnership with National Sports Shooting Foundation, and has developed a new educational program and materials emphasizing Firearm Safety. Acknowledging that firearms are a primary means of suicide, this effort is a vital component of AFSP’s goal to achieve 20% reduction in suicide by the year 2025,” Hernandez wrote.

Mentioning the partnership raised tensions more.

The suicide prevention foundation describes the partnership — which began in 2016 — on its website as “strategic” and says it allows both organizations to “build and implement public education resources for firearms retailers, shooting ranges, and the firearms-owning community about suicide prevention and firearms.”

There’s no indication the Sports Shooting Foundation pays the suicide prevention group.

“NSSF does not have a booth at our event,” said van der Stad, but pamphlets created through the partnership will be shared Saturday, she said, and materials online depict firearms. “Our goal is to provide resources and information to individuals that have been affected by suicide… We just want to unite in a common mission to provide hope to those impacted by suicide.”

Wendy Wheatcroft, head of the San Diego Moms Demand Action chapter, thinks they still could have participated.

“We have educational gun safety programs that are non-political that we hoped to share. We were never going to be pushing politics,” she wrote in an email.

Though van der Stad and other foundation officials said the partnership has nothing to do with their response to the gun control groups, Amanda Wilcox with the Brady Campaign said she has seen a change in recent years, and, “The change seems to have occurred after that partnership.”

Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the California chapters of the Brady Campaign, said she used to share materials at the walks about safe storage of firearms, and taking guns away from children and those at risk of suicide. But a year and a half ago, she was denied a booth at an event in Auburn, Calif. She said another Brady Campaign group in Los Angeles was also denied a table at an event last year.

“It would be great to partner on this and work to save lives rather than have this controversy, certainly,” Wilcox said.

The suicide prevention walk will take place Saturday, Oct. 28 at Liberty Station from 8 a.m. until noon.

 

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