Although it doesn’t get a lot of media attention, suicide by firearm are the lead cause of gun-related deaths. Of the approximate 32,000 gun deaths each year, two thirds or 21,000 are suicides. While it’s easy to be fatalistic about that statistic — folks who want to kill themselves will ultimately find a way — some believe that even modest intervention can save someone from talking their own life with a gun.
That appears to be the premise behind a suicide prevention program that is gaining traction in Colorado. Meghan Francone, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, spoke about the program known as the Gun Shop Project.
“Our gun shops are supporting us in handing out literature,” Francone told NBC 9 News in an interview. “A lot of our gun shop owners are already comfortable with not selling a gun if someone was exhibiting clues and warning signs.”
The literature contains information about the safe storage of firearms, resources for those at-risk and warning signs to detect one with suicidal ideations. So far, the project has taken hold across various rural communities, including counties with staggeringly high rates of suicide by firearm: Montrose County, 79 percent of suicide deaths involved a firearm; and Moffat County, 77 percent of suicides involved a firearm. Both figures are approximately 30 percent higher tan the national average.
Francone is adamant that her program is not about gun-control or politics. Instead, it’s a free-market solution that doesn’t force anyone to do anything.
“We feel like this is not a political statement,” Francone said. “We own guns, we are a part of the gun community … But with that, we’re also responsible gun owners.”
Dick Abramson, general manager of Centennial Gun Club, was intrigued by the project and the possibility of doing something like it in the future. Though, he cautioned the limitations of doing on-the-spot mental health assessments of prospective buyers.
“We would like to be participate in a solid program,” he said. “I think one of the challenges is that we’re not psychologists here.”
Abramson also recommended that the program include input from gun dealers and their own experiences dealing with various buyers.
“[Researchers] need to involve more people in the gun industry to help them become more knowledgeable,” he said.
Overall, what are your thoughts about the Gun Shop Project? Do you believe it could be effective at reducing gun-related suicides?