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In memory of Paul

I will never forget the day we learned our dear friend of many years had ended his life with a gun. We had known he’d been struggling with unemployment and that being unsuccessful finding work had made him depressed. We knew this and checked in with him regularly, trying to get him to come to our home for dinner or to talk on the phone or even go for a walk, but he began to say no, more and more often. His wife and I had talked, and he had a therapist, was taking medication. She said she’d asked if he was suicidal — he always said no.

He didn’t own guns, and he believed strongly in gun safety laws. He always signed my gun safety initiative petitions. But one weekend his wife left town for a conference, and he killed himself then. The horror of her call to us will never leave me. The feeling of guilt that somehow I’d failed to prevent him from doing what he did will never leave me. I’m a therapist, why didn’t I guess? Why hadn’t he called me? The knowledge that we’d met days before and he’d seemed more upbeat will never leave me. The knowledge he was so alone and in pain at the time when he shot himself will never leave me. He’d purchased the gun, we later found out, the previous week. When I’d seen him last, he had already decided. The sadness I experience every time I think of the last dinner we shared will never leave me. His snarky, dry humor that night. And we didn’t know.

If only he hadn’t had access to a gun. He had no red flags that would have prevented him from purchasing a gun. But maybe if there had been a waiting period, maybe he would have changed his mind. We will never know. But I will never stop working now to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not own them, including those suffering from suicidal thoughts. I feel so much rage at times at the fact guns are so accessible in our country. Our suicide rates would be so much lower without guns. I’d possibly still have my friend if he hadn’t bought that gun. His memory will never leave me, and everything I do to prevent gun violence now is in his honor.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.