Urban and rural cities alike are reeling from trauma and tragedy in more ways than one. From anxiety following loss of property and life in the aftermath of historic storms and extreme flooding, to the assasination attempt during the Louisville mayoral primary, to the violent shooting at the house of a former state representative in Richmond, nearly every corner of the state has experienced loss.

And, in just the last two weeks, we saw the murder of 10 Black people in a Buffalo grocery store in an act of racial terrorism, and  the unimaginable horror of the killing of 19 innocent children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. While not here in Kentucky, these tragedies take their toll and remind us again of how fragile life can be, leaving many to feel hopeless.

There is rightly a lot of attention on mass shootings, but a quieter epidemic is spreading across the Commonwealth: many Kentuckians are taking their lives by suicide.

More than 65 percent of suicide deaths in Kentucky involved a firearm in 2020, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. This is the highest number of firearm suicides on record since 1981. And within that 65 percent, farmers and veterans are among the most likely to die by suicide.

In fact, according to the CDC, suicide is more prevalent in rural communities, where the rate is almost twice as high as in urban areas.

Suicide rates among farmers increased by 40 percent in less than two decades, the CDC states. Similarly, the suicide rate among veterans jumped by almost 36 percent from 2001 to 2019, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

While farmers and veterans may be our most vulnerable populations, crisis affects all Kentuckians, looks different for everyone, and cedes no ground to political party. Crisis is a bipartisan issue that requires support and resources to heal.

To respond, we must be proactive.

Crisis moments often are not immediate. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) research shows that suicide ideation can occur months to years following a tragic event.

Months from now, our friends and families in Mayfield, Jackson and everywhere in between may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts. This is only to be compounded by the expectation that everything is supposed to go back to “normal,” but never really does.

In being proactive and temporarily removing the means of self-harm, we can reduce the risk of suicide and allow people to get the help they need when they need it most. Only when they are out of crisis, should we return their firearm(s).

This is, in its simplest form, Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention (CARR) — a common ground piece of legislation crafted with bipartisan input to resolve a bipartisan issue. By preventing the misuse of guns, CARR protects gun owners’ right to bear arms and, at the same time, protects our loved ones in crisis.  

This bill takes crisis moments head on by creating a process for the temporary transfer of firearms to someone outside the household so that an individual and judge can determine the best next steps, including identifying opportunities for much-needed support services.

This is a solution for a rapidly expanding problem. It should win the support of Kentuckians across the political spectrum — because together we have the potential to save the nearly two Kentuckians that die by firearm suicide every day.  

That’s why as Republicans and Democrats, we came together to craft this policy. That is why we designed a policy that is right for Kentucky. This is why we support CARR.

We’re farmers. We’re hunters. We’re lawyers. We’re businesspeople. Our family members are veterans. At our core, we are Kentuckians, who know the tremendous pain our state has experienced recently.

But, to move forward and save lives, we must think ahead. In a state where gun ownership is valued and important, CARR is the right approach because it prevents tragedies involving firearms from happening in the first place.

CARR is good Kentucky policy and we need your help.

Join the CARR movement and send the strong message to lawmakers that now is the time to act and help our fellow Kentuckians in their greatest time of need. Find out how you can get involved at, www.whitneystrong.org/carr-2022.

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