Suicide is 100% a non-partisan issue. Mental health is also a non-partisan issue. That being said, there are some partisan elements that play into these arenas and it’s best that all Americans do their part to check their political leanings at the door when it comes to these things. We are living in a time that the firearm community and the mental health community need to come together to come up with meaningful solutions to the different problems we are dealing with in society. A new bill aims to “address the prevalence of suicides by firearms….” H.R. 5436: Gun Suicide Prevention Act is to require gun dealers to include suicide hotline information with firearms. From a press release:
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) announced the introduction of the Gun Suicide Prevention Act to address the prevalence of suicides by firearms, particularly among veterans. This bill would require firearm manufacturers and retailers to include labels that provide the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
“The epidemic of gun violence continues to plague communities throughout our country and forever changes the lives of families who have lost someone to gun death. However, the debate surrounding gun safety overlooks the role that guns play in suicide,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “In fact, two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are from suicides.
“We lose 20 veterans a day to suicide, and 70% percent of veteran suicide deaths are from a gun. As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I work very hard to better the lives of our nation’s veterans, and suicide prevention is one of our highest priorities.
So far, my issue with this release is that Brownley had to (as if it was impossible to help herself) say “The epidemic of gun violence continues to plague communities throughout our country and forever changes the lives of families who have lost someone to gun death.” If we’re talking suicide, let’s talk suicide. The mixing and mingling of gun violence and the subject of people that contemplate or complete suicide are exclusive. Brownley, your rhetoric makes you lose points and pretty much moves me, personally, to discredit everything you have to say. Was it that impossible for you to hold back on bringing up so-called “gun violence”?
Moving on, the intent and heart of what is bring proposed is not necessarily a “bad” thing. From the bill text:
SEC. 2. LABELING REQUIREMENT.
(a) Prohibition.—Notwithstanding the exclusion of firearms from the definition of consumer product in section 3(a)(5)(E) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2052(a)(5)(E)), it shall be unlawful for a manufacturer or retailer to sell or offer for sale any firearm that does not meet the requirements of subsection (b).
(b) National Suicide Prevention Hotline Label.—A firearm meets the requirements of this subsection if a clear and conspicuous label is attached to the firearm or appears on any packaging of the firearm and on any descriptive material included with the firearm that—
(1) is written in both English and Spanish;
(2) in English, reads “IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE, PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE AT” followed by the toll-free phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, maintained by the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use under section 520E–3 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290bb–36c), or any successor to such toll-free number; and
(3) contains a yellow triangle containing an exclamation mark that appears immediately before the words “IF YOU” on the label.
(c) Enforcement.—A violation of the prohibition in subsection (a) shall be treated as a violation of section 19(a) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2068). Any person who violates subsection (a) shall be subject to the penalties set forth in section 20 and 21 of such Act (15 U.S.C. 2069; 2070).
(d) Retailer Defined.—In this section, the term “retailer” includes a dealer, as such term is definition in section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code.
(e) Effective Date.—This Act shall take effect on the date that is two years after the date of enactment of this Act.
The issues with this proposal however are things that we can’t be sure if Brownley thought of, or given her conflation between violence and suicide, perhaps this is her intent. What of the cost? Who’s going to pay for this proposal? Is that the intent, to put more expenses on the firearm industry? I much rather there be a system of voluntarily doing something like this. A program that promotes and also aids in the funding. Some companies and organizations out there are already doing work that achieves a similar goal. Take for example Walk the Talk America. From their webpage:
Through formal education, outreach, and engagement with the mental health and firearms communities, Walk the Talk America aspires to reduce firearm suicides and other negative incidents associated with firearms ownership.
Our goal is to raise awareness and create a change in the misunderstandings regarding mental illness and firearms by bringing together industry leaders to reduce gun violence, negligence, suicide, and the trauma created by these events. Develop programs for suicide prevention, firearms negligence, trauma mitigation, and child safety.
Our Vision for the Future
Eradicating the prejudice that both the firearms and mental health industries face while reducing the number of tragedies and deaths that have occurred over the years since the US has had a decline in mental health funding and education. Creating an organization that is solely focused on making change and is made up of experts from different fields and all walks of life that is not corrupted by politics, the media, or personal prejudices. We will seek out input opportunities to further enhance communication, compassion, calls to action, and education.
This sounds much more meaningful than just slapping a sticker on the box of a gun and having the information included in a firearm manual. Walk the Talk America (WTTA) is much more than a sticker. They do have an initiative that is similar, which they get firearm manufactures and members of the firearm industry to take part in if they wish.
One of WTTA’s main goals is to educate and inform. It’s okay to talk about mental health, and that conversation can and should happen around firearm ownership. Here you can find informational sheets that explain why it’s important to take care of your mental health along with links to WTTA’s screening resources. The video below gives an example of how a firearm seller can provide these resources to their buyers.
Flyers and Instructor Slides:
Download and print our informational sheets to insert into product purchases and display for free at the checkout counter. Download our Instructor Slide Show to add to your firearm training course.
Did you add flyers to your store?:
Take a photo and tag us on social media @walkthetalkus so we can share it!
From the Walk the Talk America Webpage:
There are resources out there. If our legislators seek out the people in the industry that are trying to achieve the same goal, the impact will be much more meaningful and perhaps not attached to any political stigma. Groups like Walk the Talk America and Doctors for Responsible Gun Owners both work towards breaking down barriers and aim to set the record straight when it comes to different things that are misrepresented. The National Shooting Sports Foundation also has valuable information and resources available on suicide awareness/prevention. I’m again of the school of thought that voluntary compliance to things will yield better results. I’m also of the school of thought that the government should, if they want this kind of labeling on products that are constitutionally protected, they should have to foot the bill.
I won’t say that I don’t think it’s a good idea to have this information available. In my book Decoding Firearms, between the Introduction and Chapter 1, I have the following information:
A Note on Suicide Prevention
Two thirds of all deaths attributed to firearms in the United States come in the form of suicides. Approximately 85% of suicide attempts with a firearm result in death! If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, there is help available!
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling:
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center
For more information and resources on preventing suicide, and or getting help for yourself or a loved one, you can visit them on the web at:
The inclusion of that information was not mandatory. It’s also not for a pat on the back. It’s because I personally felt it was my moral responsibility to include that information for any of my readers. For very personal reasons. The mandate and force mentality does not garner the same support. That and, not to beat a dead horse, I’m not so inclined to listen to someone that starts a conversation about suicide with “The epidemic of gun violence continues to plague communities throughout our country and forever changes the lives of families who have lost someone to gun death.” You can’t claim to be pragmatic and for “the cause” while simultaneously handing out passive aggressive insults/playing hypnotic games. Next time check your politics at the door and seek those that are already doing this work. You might actually get support in ways you’d never expect. As for the bill? We’ll keep an eye on it. The big negative effect is going to be on the firearm industry, as they’re going to have to foot the bill on this.