Our four point plan to address firearm suicide during this period of isolation, economic uncertainty, elevated stress, and increased alcohol use.
While COVID-19 is currently the most pressing public health emergency facing the nation, firearm suicide is an ongoing public health crisis that is exacerbated by COVID-19 and this time of self-quarantine. Even before this pandemic, firearm suicide was already at an all-time high; in 2018, the number of gun suicides surpassed 24,000 for the first time ever.
During this period, the work to address firearm suicide is more essential than ever. Today, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence released a new report entitled, “Firearm Suicide: Mitigating Risk During a Pandemic,” which outlines our four step solution to prevent firearm suicide. The following outlines the steps discussed in the report. This information and the full report can be found at PreventFirearmSuicide.com.
Lock Up Guns
Now more than ever, it is important to practice safer firearm storage. If a person chooses to store their firearm in the home, it is widely recommended to store firearms locked and unloaded, store and lock ammunition separately from firearms, and ensure the key or lock combination is inaccessible to the person at risk of suicide.
Telehealth Professionals: Ask About Guns
As patients turn to telehealth during COVID-19 for non-emergency procedures and appointments, it is important for healthcare professionals to ask about firearms access and engage in lethal means safety counseling for patients at an elevated risk of suicide, such as someone who is experiencing depression or engaging in risky alcohol use — especially if they have disclosed suicidal ideation or attempt.
The Role of Gun Shops
As many gun stores remain open, it is imperative that they have firearm suicide prevention educational materials prominently displayed and available for their customers.
Extreme Risk Laws Are Essential
Extreme risk protection orders temporarily prohibit the purchase and possession of firearms and/or require the removal of firearms from persons at risk of suicide or other violence. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have extreme risk laws, and all but two (New Mexico and Virginia) are currently in effect. States and localities should provide explicit guidance on how to obtain an extreme risk protection order during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that they are accessible. Check in with local law enforcement and courts for further direction.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is the nation’s oldest gun violence organization.
The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence is a public health think tank that identifies and implements evidence-based policy solutions and programs to reduce gun violence in all its forms.
Prevent Firearm Suicide is a project of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence that raises awareness about how temporarily reducing access to firearms during periods of high risk for suicide is life-saving.