NEWTOWN, Conn. – As suicide prevention groups mark Suicide Prevention Month by calling for prevention to become a national priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, the firearm industry is supporting that effort by educating the public – particularly the gun-owning community, including veterans and their families – on how storing firearms responsibly and simply talking to loved ones can mean the difference between a life saved and a tragedy.
“It is a fact that suicide is preventable, and securing firearms is one of the most important steps gun owners can take to protect those at risk of suicide,” said Joe Bartozzi, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) President and CEO.
NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, has partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) since 2016. Recognizing that nearly two-thirds of all firearms deaths are suicides and that half of all suicides in the U.S. are by firearm, NSSF took action by partnering with experts in the suicide prevention field. Around the same time, AFSP launched “Project 2025,” which seeks to reduce the rate of suicide by focusing on primary care settings, emergency departments, the gun owning community and correction systems.
As COVID-19 continues to elevate levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty, NSSF is also marking Suicide Prevention Month by sharing educational resources for gun owners and veterans:
Through Project ChildSafe®, its firearm safety educational program, NSSF has partnered with former US Army infantryman Omar Avila, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge for his service during the Iraq War in 2004. As a motivational storyteller, Paralympic powerlifter and hunting enthusiast, Avila is a prominent figure in the veteran community with more than 300,000 followers on Instagram. During Suicide Prevention Month, Project ChildSafe will “take over” Avila’s Instagram story to share firearm safety tips and resources directly with veterans and their supporters.
NSSF and AFSP partnered with the U.S Veterans Administration and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association in a groundbreaking cooperative effort to produce a webinar on “Protecting Mental Health and Preventing Suicide During COVID-19.” The public is also encouraged to read this recent blog post from AFSP on taking care of one’s mental health during times of uncertainty.
Also for veterans and their families, NSSF has a new resource for military families with tips on how to have this conversation and with suggestions for firearm storage options.
NSSF and AFSP have created a Firearms and Suicide Prevention Brochure to help all gun owners better understand the risk factors of suicide and what prevention steps they can take. Given the importance of secure storage, gun owners can also review NSSF’s infographic on Safe Storage Options to Suit Your Lifestyle.
NSSF and AFSP have also created a Suicide Prevention Toolkit to help firearm retailers, shooting ranges and gun owners nationwide understand risk factors and warning signs related to suicide, know where to find help and encourage secure firearm storage. Central to all the advice is how to “Have a Brave Conversation.”
In the coming weeks, NSSF and AFSP will roll out a series of additional new resources on suicide prevention, specifically for parents.
“In addition to storing firearms securely, we’ve learned one of the most important things anyone can do if they’re worried about a friend or loved one is to talk to them,” Bartozzi says. “It’s okay to have a brave conversation and ask them directly about suicide. The experts tell us that asking about it won’t put the idea in their head, or cause them to act. In most cases, they’ll feel relieved someone cares enough about them to bring it up.”
Anyone experiencing a crisis, or concerned about the safety of a friend or loved one, is urged to contact any of the following resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press “1”.
Lifeline Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
About Project ChildSafe
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association of the firearms industry, launched Project ChildSafe in 1999 (originally as Project HomeSafe). Since then, the program has provided more than 38 million free firearm safety kits and gun locks to firearm owners in all 50 states through partnerships with thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. That’s in addition to the more than 70 million free locking devices manufacturers have included, and continue to include, with new firearms sold since 1998. While helping to prevent accidents among children is a focus, Project ChildSafe is intended to help adults practice greater firearm safety in the home. More information is available at projectchildsafe.org.
NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.