Ralph Demicco was sitting in his sporting goods shop one Saturday morning when he noticed a customer who was acting slightly ... off.

She was conspicuously overdressed and refused to make eye contact when she came up to the counter and asked to look at a pistol.

Demicco asked the woman if she should really be buying a gun — and she immediately broke down crying. He told WBUR that he brought her into the back room of the store, where she confided that she was planning to kill herself. He let her stay there and collect herself while he reached out to her doctor.


Demicco may have saved a life that day. But he has good reason to be so careful.

Note: not actually Ralph Demicco. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

During one week in 2009, three different people bought guns at different times from Demicco's store.

Each of them used the gun they'd bought to take their own life later that same day.

"Apparently our marginal screening process did not pick up on any of these individuals," Demicco told The Trace in 2016. Unfortunately, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System only flags people who've been committed to a mental institution against their own will.

So, technically speaking, the employees at the store did everything they were supposed to. But according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, guns are responsible for nearly half of the more than 40,000 suicides each year, and suicide accounted for almost two-thirds of the total gun deaths in the country — meaning it's an even bigger problem than the homicides and mass shootings people tend to hear about.

Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2011, Demicco decided to do something about this.

He teamed up with public health professionals and local firearm dealers to establish the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition, taking an active role in preventing suicides.

It began with a simple plan to reach out to all 67 gun shops in New Hampshire — first to start a conversation, then to see if they'd be willing to display posters or pamphlets in their store to raise awareness about suicide. The NHFSC also provides training to firearms dealers to help them spot warning signs in customers.

Within a year, half of the firearm retailers in the state were on board with the cause.

One of the posters, which includes a list of warning signs to look out for.

"We’re learning about warning signs and spreading an additional message of gun safety to our customers," Demicco said in a press release.

"If you’re worried someone is suicidal, offer to hold on to their guns until they are in a better place."

"It's not that gun owners are more likely to be suicidal or depressed," coalition co-chair Elaine Frank added in an interview with USA Today. "It's that guns are the most lethal way for someone to take their own life."

She's right: Most suicides are fairly impulsive, and 70% of people who survive an attempt won't try again. Unfortunately, only about 10% of people survive a suicide attempt by gun. Which makes gun intervention that much more important.

Another NHFSC pamphlet, which aims to normalize the additional gun safety rule of "consider temporary off-site storage if a family member may be suicidal."

While New Hampshire may have been the first state to launch this kind of program, the idea is starting to make its way around the country.

And the results are looking pretty good.

A new law passed in Washington state in March 2016 with the support of both the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation. The law will increase training and messaging about suicide prevention among gun dealers and other firearm professionals, as well as in all gun sport safety materials.

Even more recently, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention teamed up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation to research, create, and implement a plan that reduces suicide rates 20% by 2025.

The official AFSP infographic for Project 2025.

Overall, more than two dozen states have launched programs similar to the one in New Hampshire in the last five years.

According to the Trace, this includes famously pro-gun states with higher suicide rates like Alabama, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Colorado.

There has been some resistance, of course.

"I think there’s a fear among some stores — it’s been expressed vehemently — that it’s just another backdoor attempt at grabbing guns," said one New Hampshire firearm dealer. "You gotta convince people that this isn’t about gun control, it’s suicide control."

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

Mental health and gun deaths are both complicated issues.

There's no one-size-fits-all-solution to either one, of course, but it's encouraging that people are working toward systemic solutions.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing about these kinds of programs is the way they bring people together from all across the spectrum.

As one Harvard researcher who was following the New Hampshire coalition told U.S. News & World Report: "The suicide prevention people were largely not gun owners. The gun owners on that committee didn’t have a background on mental health or suicide issues. We learned so much from each other."

When it comes to saving lives, actions speak much louder than words. And as these initiatives prove, that's something everyone can agree on.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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