78 percent of gun deaths in Washington are by suicide. A new program to change that targets gun owners.

Robin Ball, owner, Sharp Shooting Indoor Range and Gunshop talks about home safety at her shop in Spokane on Monday, March 19, 2018. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The young man was alone when he walked into Robin Ball’s gun shop.

Ball, the owner of Sharp Shooting Indoor Range and Gunshop, recognized him because he often came in to shoot with his uncle. He rented a gun to take out on the range. It was a normal transaction.

Ball said she believes he waited until the range was quiet. Then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

“It rocks your world. You kind of look at that and say, ‘What could we do to stop it?’” she said.

As student activists from Parkland, Florida have put a national spotlight on school shootings and gun violence, an unlikely coalition of public health workers and members of the gun industry have been working together to stop a far more common, far less talked about cause of deaths involving firearms: suicide.

According to a Spokesman-Review analysis of state death records, 4,164 people in Washington ended their lives with a firearm between 2010 and 2017. That accounts for almost half of all suicides and 78 percent of gun deaths. Read More…