Vermont man's obituary calls for waiting period on gun purchases

ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) Heartbreak as an Essex family grapples with their son's suicide by gun. In Andrew Black's obituary, his family included a line telling people if they felt that a waiting period was something that Vermont lawmakers should consider, they should contact them and ask for it in Andrew's memory.

Our Cat Viglienzoni spoke with his parents about why they wanted people to know how their son died.

"He was a joyful person," Alyssa Black said.

Parents Alyssa and Rob Black say their son's wide smile was its widest when Andrew was outdoors or working at his dream job at Lawson's Finest Liquids. The 23-year-old was an avid home brewer since the age of 16.

"He loved the art of beer," Alyssa said.

They didn't want to say what happened the morning of Dec. 6 that drove their son to suicide.

"Andrew was having a bad day, that's the easiest way to put it," Rob said. "At 11:02 he went and bought a gun. Was out of the store by 11:30 and he was dead by 3 or 3:30."

An act they say was impulsive.

"It was just so easy for him to do it," Rob said. "In the moment, whatever was going through his head, that was his solution to it."

As they grappled with his sudden death, they decided to pen a line in his obituary asking people to contact their representatives on Andrew's behalf if they felt a waiting period to buy firearms was appropriate.

"I'm a combat veteran and I own guns, and I'm definitely not anti-gun by any means," Rob said. "But I am pro-waiting period."

"We wait for lots of things. We wait for our Amazon packages to come," Alyssa said. "We don't need instant gratification."

"If nothing more than 24 or 48 hours. If he had just had time to let us get home or go to work the next day, it could have totally been avoided," Rob said.

We asked Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine if his department tracked how many gun-related suicides were from weapons purchased that day. They don't.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Would a waiting period work?
Dr. Mark Levine: Waiting period hasn't been one of the strategies that we've used, only because it doesn't have the track record of data that other strategies do.

The Health Department says 89 percent of Vermont firearms deaths from 2011-2015 were suicides. And Levine says many of them were like Andrew Black and didn't show warning signs.

"More than half the people who succeeded in suicide were not people you thought were mentally ill or in an ongoing crisis or mental illness," Levine said. "It was often impulsive and related to the stresses of life."

The Black family says they're not on a crusade. They believe in the right to own firearms. But they also believe their son would not have turned to another means of suicide.

"If our story can help at least one other family to not go through what we're going through, that will be worth it," Alyssa said.

The guns in the Black family home are locked and secured.

We went looking for national data on waiting periods. And found conflicting information. One study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that states with waiting period laws had 51 percent fewer firearm suicides. But another one from the National Institutes of Health found the number was closer to a 7-11 percent reduction in gun suicides.

We reached out to the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs for comment on waiting periods and have not heard back yet.

The Black family would like to sincerely thank Lawson's for their support and love for their son.

If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, here are resources that can help:

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE:
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

VERMONT SUICIDE PREVENTION CENTER:
VT Crisis Text Line: Text "VT" to 741741
Text VT to 741741 - Crisis Text Line is FREE - 24/7 support.
You get an automated text response first, and then a response from a trained crisis counselor. They work with you until you are cool and calm and have a positive plan for next steps.

Vermont 211:
Dial 211 anywhere in Vermont or visit www.Vermont211.org to get live referral help to public and private state and community services.

Umatter® U Can Get Help: www.UmatterUCanGetHelp.org
Award winning website for youth who think they may need help or may be worried about someone else

National Hopeline Network: 800-442-HOPE (4673)
www.hopeline.com

Screening for Mental Health: www.mentalhealthscreening.org
In-person and online screening programs for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD, eating disorder, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.

GLBT National Health Center: 888-843-4564GLBT National Hotline
www.glnh.org
GLBT National Youth Talkline: 800-246-PRIDE (7743)
Online Peer Support Chat: www.glnh.org/chat/index.html
Telephone volunteers in their teens and early twenties speak with teens and young adults up to age 25 about coming-out issues, relationship concerns, parent issues, school problems, HIV/AIDS, anxiety and more.

The Trevor Project: www.thetrevorproject.org
Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386 www.TrevorSpace.org Trevor Chat: 202-304-1200 Trevor Text: Text the word "Trevor"
Providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

Trans Lifeline: www.translifeline.org - 877-565-8860

Veterans Crisis Line: www.veteranscrisisline.net 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and PRESS 1