The Royal Oak City Commission is seeking a comprehensive suicide prevention initiative in the wake of recent tragedies at a Woodward Avenue shooting range.
In the past five months, two people have committed suicide, and third person attempted suicide, at Target Sports, a Royal Oak shooting range and gun shop.
On Monday night, commissioners directed city staff to work with Target Sports to come up with self-regulation measures and to look at ordinances that would reduce the risk of further suicides or attempts in the future.
Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue stated Target Sports owner Ray Jihad is very open to any suggestions city officials might have. Jihad's attorney provided commissioners with a letter stating the shooting range has taken the suicides and attempts very hard—both personally and professionally.
O'Donohue has been working with the owner to come up with solutions.
“(Target Sports) will not rent a gun to an individual that comes in by themselves if they don’t already have a gun in their possession," O'Donohue said. "Every one of the suicides or attempts involved an individual coming in by themself without a gun.”
If a customer comes in alone and wants to rent a gun, they will still be able to, but an employee will accompany him or her.
“There is a state framework in place to regulate shooting ranges,” noted City Attorney Dave Gillam. “They are required under state law to adapt certain standards that they believe are generally accepted within the industry.”
It’s just commonsense, according to Royal Oak resident Sandy Wilkins, who spoke during public comment.
“Commonsense would ask that the operators of public gun ranges self-impose extremely high standards, especially when it comes to safety,” Wilkins said.
‘People are dying waiting for us’
Commissioners also directed staff to work with community partners, such as Beaumont Hospital and Common Ground, to move forward with education and suicide prevention programs.
Commissioner Peggy Goodwin offered the following statistics:
- In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.
- Approximately 50 percent of suicides are committed with firearms. In fact, more suicides are committed with firearms than homicides.
- Approximately 90 percent of suicide victims have a diagnosable illness at the time of their death.
"I ask that we do something—that we act, but that we also talk," Goodwin said.
Goodwin recognized Farmington Hills as an example of a community that is “doing something.”
In 2010, a Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed in Farmington Hills after city council members became alarmed after receiving reports about 13 young people who threatened or attempted suicide in one month.
Dr. Ken Massey, a Farmington Hills City Council member, spoke during public comment Monday.
"There is something as electeds that we can do about this trend, and we need to act," Massey said. "People are dying waiting for us to do it."
There was consensus at City Hall to look at what other communities have done, and to find ways to open up suicide prevention dialog in Royal Oak.
“It’s our responsibility to protect our residents and protect our businesses," said Mayor Jim Ellison.
City Manager Don Johnson will direct staff to work on the issue and will provide an update in March.
If you or a loved one is in need of crisis counseling, you are urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or visit www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.