Storing, Securing, Saving Lives: Firearm Safety and Suicide Prevention

Firearms are used in nearly 50% of all suicides in the United States.

Many suicide attempts are made with little planning during a short-term crisis period, and evidence has shown that putting time and distance between a person feeling suicidal and a firearm can significantly impact the survival rate.

Lethal means restriction (practicing safe firearm storage) is an evidence-based practice shown to reduce death by suicide. Even if someone attempts suicide in another manner, they have an increased chance of survival because other means are less lethal. By keeping secure firearm storage in mind, we can all help reduce the number of suicides involving firearms.

“No one takes their life for a single reason. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use problems – especially when unaddressed – increase the risk of suicide. That risk is greater when a firearm is present and accessible in the home.” – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

We can all prevent firearm deaths by following the universal rules of gun safety:

- Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.

- Always point the gun in a safe direction.

- Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

- Be sure of your target – and what’s beyond.

- Never use alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, or prescription drugs before or while shooting.

- Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.

- Wear eye and ear protection as appropriate.

- Seek proper instruction, such as a firearm safety class.

- Be sure the gun is safe to operate.

- Store your guns safely and securely when not in use.

- Consider temporarily off-site storage if a family member may be suicidal.

When an emotional crisis (like a break-up, job loss, or legal trouble) or a major change in someone’s behavior (like depression, violence, or heavy drinking) causes concern, storing guns outside the home for a while may save a life. Family, friends, as well as some shooting clubs, police departments, or gun shops may be able to store guns for you temporarily.*

If you are worried about a friend or a family member:

  • Trust your gut and don’t wait for them to reach out. Let them know you care.
  • Ask them directly about suicide and encourage them to seek help. Talking about suicidal thoughts and showing concern will not put someone at greater risk.
  • Talk about gun safety and options for temporary off-site firearm storage.

If you are going through a difficult time:

  • North Range Behavioral Health is a provider of Colorado Crisis Services. This no-cost resource connects people with free, immediate, and confidential help all day, every day.
    • Call: 844.493.TALK (8255)Text TALK to 38255Walk-in: 928 12th Street in Greeley
    • Find other Colorado walk-in centers at ColoradoCrisisServices.org

Safe storage of firearms can protect you and those you love. It's okay to give firearms and gun lock keys to trusted family members or friends when life gets tough.


*To become fully informed about making a temporary gun transfer, review Colorado gun laws, including C.R.S 18-12-112, or consult an attorney.

Resources:

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