Arlyn, 18

“She’s dead,” the officer said, speaking of my teenager daughter, Arlyn. “She shot herself.”

Then, he looked at my husband. “Do you own a gun?”

My husband said yes, and the officer told him to get it. He followed my husband out of the room to our bedroom to retrieve the gun from his closet. The old hunting rifle was missing.

People have told us that if Arlyn had not taken the gun, she could have killed herself another way. That’s possible.

It’s also possible that the delay as she looked for another way to take action would have given her mind time to move out of the suicidal trance she was in at the moment. That lost opportunity took away our chance to help and save Arlyn.

We did not know that Arlyn had been having suicidal thoughts, but that’s no excuse for having a gun in a place where someone could easily pick it up and use it to inflict harm.

Suicide of a young person casts a shadow on the family forever, a shadow made darker by guilt and self-blame. Inadvertently providing the weapon of death for a beloved child is something parents never get over.

The only way to guarantee that the gun you own is never used to end a life is to lock it up. The only way you can make sure that someone who is precious to you never becomes a victim of gun violence by your own gun is to lock your gun up and not share the combination or the key.

To read more about Karyl’s suicide prevention work in Tennessee, please visit the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network’s website: tspn.org.