Positive Steps to Combat Underlying Issue Facing the Gun Violence

Unprecedented Program Supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Project 2025 Goal to Reduce the Annual Suicide Rate 20 Percent by 2025

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The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced on January 17th a new program partnering with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to combat suicide.

The group, which represents gun makers and dealers, is teaming up with AFSP to spearhead a new nationwide effort.  The program is designed to educate gun owners on the warning signs and risk factors of those who may be contemplating suicide as well as the importance of securely storing firearms.  A pilot of this program has been ongoing in four states since August 2016.

NSSF, which represents gun manufacturers and dealers, is taking an active role in disseminating mental health and suicide prevention education materials, and safe storage options to those who frequent their stores. Excerpts from Press Release:

Of all suicide deaths in our nation, nearly 50 percent are by firearm.  By increasing public education of firearms and suicide prevention, and by encouraging the use of safe storage options and thus reducing access to lethal means, we give suicidal individuals something they desperately need: time. Time for the intense suicidal risk to diminish and time for someone to intervene with mental health support and resources,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer at a press conference today at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the largest trade show in the world for professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries. “Research has shown that separating suicidal individuals from a variety of lethal means can prevent suicide.

Firearms retailers and range owners are in a unique position to help disseminate mental health and suicide prevention education materials, and safe storage options to those who frequent their stores. With these public education resources, the firearms-owning community can help spread the word to those who may be concerned about a friend or family member who may be at risk, and who may have access to a firearm.

Our partnership with AFSP allows us to expand our decades-long firearms safety efforts to include suicide prevention education,” said Steve Sanetti, NSSF’s President and CEO. “As the industry’s trade association with more than 12,000 members, we want to help. By making gun owners and the public more aware of suicide and responsible firearm storage, we are confident that we will help save lives.

The program has already completed a five-month pilot phase in four states. Colorado’s Centennial Gun Club has already begun suicide training and seen positive results.

“When I first heard about this partnership I was really encouraged,” said Dick Abramson, Centennial’s president. “Working with experts in the field, we have been trying to teach gun owners about suicide prevention on a local level for a while—and so far it’s been a bootstrap effort, recruiting one firearms retailer at a time. But by expanding the education and suicide prevention program nationally, we will have a much easier time convincing retailers to get involved because NSSF is a name they trust.”

“We know there is a real thirst in the community for this kind of education.”

Mental health has been a factor in nearly every mass shooting in recent history and people with serious mental illness are three times more likely than those who are not mentally ill to commit violent acts against themselves or others, so programs like these can only help.  Recognizing that this is but a step, but programs like these will be far and above more effective at reducing violence than any new gun law.

If we really want to be serious about fixing gun violence, then programs like these are a step in the right direction.