September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose loved ones died by gun suicide.

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Jennifer Gonzales

My son, Jack Gonzales Farrell, was a 17-year-old senior at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, New Jersey. He played lacrosse. He loved to ski. He was smart, had many friends, and he could make people laugh. He was very funny.

On September 22, 2016, Jack’s father – who was a retired police officer – was ordered by a judge to lock his numerous weapons in his gun safe with the combination only known to him. He was ordered to lock up his guns because there was concern about the father’s mental health due to his severe PTSD.

On November 25, 2016 – the day after Thanksgiving – just 66 days after the judge ordered my ex-husband to lock up his gun safe, Jack went to his father’s house, took a gun out of his father’s unlocked safe, walked down the street to a nearby park and shot himself in the head. He died two days later.

My son is dead because his father failed to follow the judge’s order. He left his gun safe wide open. It was determined by the police that the gun safe was open for weeks. My son’s death was 100 percent preventable.

I am devastated by my son’s death and will never be the same. Jack’s brother and sister are heartbroken and they will never be the same. And Jack’s friends, teachers and those who knew him are forever changed because a gun was not safely stored.

If Jack’s father had common sense, he would have locked up his guns. If Jack’s father had only followed the judge’s order, Jack would still be alive.

Because the safe storage law in New Jersey does not include children older than 15, the father did not get in any trouble. He was not held accountable at all.

We need to strengthen our laws so that our children are protected and negligent gun owners are held accountable. We cannot continue to allow our children to die or be injured by guns belonging to reckless gun owners.

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