Gun Sellers Team Up With Suicide Prevention Groups

When anti-gunners prattle on about the total number of “gun deaths,” we tend to respond that roughly two-thirds of those deaths are suicides. We say that because it’s true. There are more than 20,000 suicides each year that involve a firearm.


Now, some gun sellers are working with suicide prevention activists to try and reduce that number.

Gun dealers, range owners and firearms instructors have found that suicide prevention fits into their mission to promote the safe use of guns. Hundreds of them around the country now share suicide-prevention literature, emphasize prevention techniques in their concealed-carry classes, teach workers to recognize distress among customers and welcome prevention advocates to firearm trade shows.

This seemingly unlikely partnership has unfolded quietly, in contrast to the public divisiveness that typically characterizes the debate over gun violence. It originated from mental health researchers and advocates, who see curbing firearm suicides ─ which make up more than half of all suicides in America, or nearly 23,000 in 2016 ─ as integral to reducing the number of firearm deaths.

“This is a new way to go about reducing suicidal persons’ access to guns ─ not by promoting an anti-gun agenda but by asking gun owners to be part of the solution,” said Catherine Barber, who directs the Means Matter Campaign to prevent suicide at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center. “Vilifying them isn’t going to work.”


The new public-health emphasis on gun suicides is driven in part by statistics showing that they are far more prevalent than homicides committed with a firearm. That is particularly so in rural areas and the intermountain West. Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho and New Mexico all rank in the top 10 for suicide rates, with more than 20 deaths per year per 100,000 people (the national rate is 13.5 deaths and rising).

Unlike “red flag” laws that allow police officers to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others, the partnership of the gun industry and the suicide-prevention community requires no new legislation. It is voluntary, focusing on public-education campaigns to make people more comfortable talking about guns and suicide, and encouraging gun owners who feel suicidal to hand their weapons over to someone they trust. While there are no studies yet measuring the campaigns’ effect on death rates, advocates gauge success by the growing interest in the gun industry.


Honestly, this is something we should all get behind.

For one, it’s the right thing to do. We should do what we can to help people who are suffering through something that might push them to take their own life. While we’re not responsible for what others do, we can and should help our fellow man or woman when they’re in need.

Another thing, which is less important but still significant, is that a reduction in suicides means fewer deaths that anti-gunners can pretend are caused by firearms. That means working to combat suicide means we undermine one of their more persuasive arguments–the total number of “gun deaths” each year.

Tell me that’s not a win-win.

Further, since this is an effort that won’t be infringing on anyone’s rights, I suggest that this is something we should all get behind and support. Again, it is the right thing to do.

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