New program trains gun store owners and employees to look for signs of suicide

WESTFIELD, Ind. – Gun ranges are about the safest place to discharge a weapon, but not if the shooter has other intentions.

Tim Tomich knows firsthand—he’s the owner of Tim’s Shooting Academy of Westfield. He had a customer who came to the range with the intention to commit suicide.

One of Tomich’s employees was suddenly thrust into a life-or-death situation. Tomich remembers the event like it was yesterday.

“My employee asked, ‘Are you really afraid of the gun?’ And he said, ‘No. I just can’t shoot myself.’ And that’s when the lights went on and Jim, my employee, who is a very Christian person, put his arm around him and took him outside,” Tomich recalled.

The employee averted a tragedy, but not everyone can. That’s why Tomich agreed to participate when he learned about a Community Health program to teach gun store staff members the signs of suicide.

“We don’t want anybody to go through things like that,” he said.

According to WebMD, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 34. Women attempt to kill themselves more often than men, but men are four times more likely to die from a suicide attempt. A gun is the most common method used.

“I’ve had friends die by suicide. It’s very devastating. I can tell you personally,” said Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community Health.

Richardson has made it his mission to teach anyone who will listen about the signs and symptoms of suicide. He believes the program developed specifically for gun store and gun range owners will save lives.

“We’re asking people to say the word ‘suicide.’ We’re asking them to practice asking somebody, ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide?’”

The training includes learning to recognize the signs that someone may be contemplating suicide.

“[Look for signs like] someone who is crying, someone who doesn’t make much eye contact, someone who appears anxious, maybe someone who doesn’t want to purchase much ammunition [or] doesn’t know a lot about guns and doesn’t ask about it,” Richardson said.

Community Health offers the one-hour training session for free. Tomich is the only gun store owner in central Indiana who has accepted the offer so far.

Click here for more information about the signs of suicide.