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

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Laura Abbasi

In memory of Jeffrey R. Banish

My only brother Jeffrey died by suicide with a gun on March 9, 2003, when he was just 21 years old.

Suicides account for two-thirds of all gun deaths. Many people think suicides are unavoidable tragedies, but that’s not true. Suicides are intimately linked with the availability of guns and when my brother experienced his first real heartbreak, access to a gun was the difference between life and death.

It is still hard to fathom, 15 years later, how someone with so much life could die this way.
My brother was fun-loving, popular and even served on the homecoming court with his high school sweetheart.

He was an avid athlete — he loved football, track and field, and just about every sport.
We grew up in rural Michigan, on Lake Huron, and Jeffrey was an excellent sailor. Jeffrey loved the outdoors. He went fishing and hunting. He used bows as well as rifles to hunt deer. It wasn’t uncommon for my brother to walk out of the house with a gun – to go hunting with his friends.

But there is a time and a place for guns. And when my brother and his long-term girlfriend broke up, access to a gun was the difference between fleeting impulsive thoughts and an irreversible fatal mistake.

Many people can remember their first real heartbreak. It feels like the world is ending. When you have access to a gun, the world really does end.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share this story about my brother. For a long time, I couldn’t. I wish I had the awareness and knowledge that I have now, and that I could go back in time and disrupt the events of that day. I feel confident that if 15 years ago, on March 9, someone would have said something as simple as, “Hey Jeffrey, you seem upset. Maybe you should leave the gun here today”, he would still be alive. I wish I could have told him that.

I wish I could tell him, “Hey, that first heartbreak is the worst, but later on you will look back and be relieved or even happy it didn’t work out.”

I wish a lot of things…

And I also take action. I am committed to doing my part to change laws and raise awareness about gun violence prevention for Jeffrey and the 100 Americans who die every day from guns and hundreds more who are injured. By early February, more people are killed with guns in America than are killed with guns in other high-income nations in the entire year. I share my story with the hope that others don’t have to have to experience what my family has been through. We don’t have to live and die this way.

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