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Guns & America is a groundbreaking new national reporting collaborative in which 10 public media newsrooms, including Ideastream Public Media, will train their attention on a singular issue: the role of guns in American life. Over the course of two years, the stations will report on how guns impact us as Americans, from the cultural significance of hunting and sport shooting, to the role guns play in suicide, homicide, mass shootings and beyond. Follow our reporting at gunsandamerica.org.

Raised With Firearms In Rural Idaho, One Boise Mom Is Advocating For Change

Jenny Lingle and her daughters on an early December morning before school. Lingle, a part-time nurse and Moms Demand Action volunteer, is a fourth generation Idahoan who grew up around guns. But since having kids her perspective has shifted.
Jenny Lingle and her daughters on an early December morning before school. Lingle, a part-time nurse and Moms Demand Action volunteer, is a fourth generation Idahoan who grew up around guns. But since having kids her perspective has shifted.

On a Friday morning in December, Jenny Lingle’s house in Boise, Idaho, is buzzing with the sounds of young children. Her daughters, Ruby, 4, and Lucy, 7, and their friend, Hannah, sit at the kitchen table, chatting between bites of breakfast.

Most days, Lingle works as a nurse at a local hospital. But on days like today, she’s half of an elementary school carpool, getting her daughters and their friend ready for school.

When You Look At A Gun, What Do You See?

To better understand why the topic of guns is so polarizing, we spent time with people as they considered this question and shared their answer.

Lingle says it was her kids that first got her into activism. Two and a half years ago, she started volunteering with the gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“I think that the experience of having a child changes you in every possible way,” Lingle said. “But it really reinforces the idea that every life is so precious.“

When she first joined Moms Demand, she says she was “feeling pretty helpless and overwhelmed about the amount of gun violence that was going on.”

“I just don’t think it has to be this way,” said Lingle. “I don’t think we have to live in a country where people shoot each other all the time.”

After her daughter Lucy, center, was born, Lingle says stories of gun violence hit her differently.

Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

And then in 2012, she had her first daughter, Lucy.

“I got in the car to drive to get groceries with her one day and turned on the radio, and Sandy Hook had just happened,” Lingle recalled. “And I just remember this, like deep, deep sorrow, and just this pit of fear that I just could not imagine losing my child, especially to gun violence. So becoming a parent definitely started to change the way I heard and experienced stories about gun violence.”

Lingle grew up in a different type of community, in small towns of just a few hundred or thousand people, all on the doorstep of Idaho’s backcountry.

“I’m a fourth generation Idahoan,” Lingle said. “I’ve lived in lots of rural parts of the state.”

As a result, Lingle says, guns were part of her upbringing.

“I come from a huge hunting and sport shooting family — like, dad, stepdad, brothers,” Lingle said. “Much of their free time revolves around it.”

But Lingle says they were always stored away.

“Growing up, we had a lot of guns in our house, but they were always locked in a big gun safe in my parents’ closet, so I never saw them unless they were being brought out for hunting or sports shooting. I never saw a gun just laying around.”

‘When You Look At A Gun, What Do You See?’

“I do not buy into the fact that all guns are dangerous or that all people with guns are dangerous,” Lingle said.

“I think when I see a gun in a public place I experience fear. I have that response, ‘Why is that person carrying a gun in public?’ When I see someone out in the woods hunting with a gun or I see a hunting rifle being loaded up into a truck for hunting, I think ‘Oh, fun.’”

And so, Lingle says, it really boils down to the setting.

But there’s another issue top of mind for her.

“In Idaho, we have a problem with suicide,” she said. “And that problem revolves around suicide with firearms.”

Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and firearm is by far the most common method.

“I do think there is an undercurrent to even Idaho gun culture that isn’t being talked about fairly,” Lingle said, “and that’s that piece — that suicide by firearm. And what do we need to be doing differently? Because we are losing a lot of our people to suicide by firearm and particularly our men in rural Idaho.”

And it’s not a problem unique to Idaho. According to a national poll from APM Research Lab, Call To Mind and Guns & America, less than a quarter of Americans can correctly identify suicide as being responsible foremost gun deaths.

Resources if you or someone you know is considering suicide:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Options For Deaf + Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889

en español: 1-888-628-9454

Veterans Crisis Line & Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1

Crisis Text Line: 741-741

In emergency situations, call 911

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

Copyright 2019 Guns and America. To see more, visit Guns and America.