Monday’s death of nationally-recognized firearms blogger Bob Owens has officially been ruled a suicide, the Washington Post is reporting, and the timing of his tragic departure has a bittersweet note today, as there is upcoming action on suicide prevention that is being championed by the firearms community.
Sig Sauer, in partnership with Aiming for Zero, is putting on a charity shooting match May 12-13 at the Sig Sauer Academy in Epping, N.H. Aiming for Zero’s mission, according to a Sig Sauer press release, “is to reduce veteran suicide.”
Suicide does not play favorites and any effort to reduce such tragedies could have potential ripple effects across the entire population. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which is also involved in a suicide prevention effort, about two-thirds of all firearms related deaths in 2015 were suicides. That average persists.
In Washington State, where gun rights leader Alan Gottlieb has championed a suicide prevention effort, legislation now sits on the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee that advances the state’s Safe Homes project another rung up the ladder. The program was established in 2016 without funding, and this year that problem is being addressed.
Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, has become an energetic advocate for suicide prevention. He tells people, “This isn’t about guns, it’s about preventing tragedies.” The suicide rate in Washington is higher than the national average, and roughly 80 percent of all firearms deaths in that state are suicides.
NSSF announced during the January Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas that it is partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to launch a program this year to educate firearms dealers, range operators and local firearms organizations about suicide and its warning signs.
As friends of Owens, who was editor of BearingArms.com, remember his impact on their lives, it is not clear there were any warning signs. He attended the National Rifle Association convention in Atlanta about two weeks ago, and friends say there was nothing unusual about his behavior.
Katie Pavlich at TownHall.com recalled Owens fondly in a poignant remembrance.
“I will remember Bob for all of the smiles he put on my face and the laughter he brought to those around him,” she wrote. “He was an incredible friend with the kindest of hearts. He served as an important mentor to many and was an overwhelmingly positive influence in my life. I was blessed to know him and I will miss him dearly.”
That seems to be the prevailing sentiment among those who knew and respected Owens, whose final message on his Facebook page, posted just minutes before he was found lying near the entrance of his neighborhood, remains baffling to many people.
“In the end,” he wrote, “it turns out that I’m not strong. I’m a coward, and a selfish son of a b—-. I’m sorry.”
Owens’ friends today would tell him he was wrong on all counts. He was strong enough to tackle tough subjects, including sometimes blistering criticisms of people in the gun community. If there was any cowardice, it never showed up in his writing, and as for selfishness, Pavlich clearly sets the record straight.
Elements of the gun prohibition lobby have wasted no time reaching for new lows in their efforts to exploit this tragedy. Owens’ friends and admirers are taking a much higher road, supporting a GoFundMe page to help his wife and daughters through a devastating experience.