FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2021
Julia Friedmann, West End Strategy Team
Legislation to Address Firearm Suicide Crisis Among Veterans Will Save Lives
Bicameral bill supporting lethal means safety counseling nationwide will help healthcare professionals, veterans, and their families reduce risk of firearm suicide
WASHINGTON — Every day, 17 veterans die by suicide, 12 by firearm, as part of a quiet and escalating suicide crisis in the United States. Today, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) applauded federal lawmakers for addressing the suicide crisis among the nation’s veterans, including firearm suicide, by introducing legislation that provides greater training opportunities for health care providers to conduct lethal means safety counseling for veterans at risk of suicide.
The Lethal Means Safety Training Act, re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would help the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide training on lethal means safety counseling to all health care professionals who routinely interact with veterans. Lethal means safety counseling is an evidence-based health care intervention that empowers health care providers to discuss available means of suicide with patients at risk of suicide. Health care providers can work in partnership with their patients and patients’ families to find mutually-agreeable solutions that temporarily reduce access to guns and in turn, reduce the risk of suicide. CSGV also sent a letter to the leadership of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, urging Congress to swiftly pass the law.
“Veteran suicide is a public health crisis,” said Dakota Jablon, CSGV’s Director of Federal Affairs and Suicide Prevention Specialist at CSGV affiliate organization, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV). “Veterans are at far greater risk of dying by suicide, and we know that almost seven out of 10 suicides among veterans involve a firearm. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to Representative Underwood’s and Senator Blumenthal’s leadership, we know that we can save lives by temporarily reducing access to firearms and allowing more opportunities for intervention. Lethal means safety counseling creates these opportunities, by working with veterans to reduce their access to firearms during times of increased risk.”
The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, a group organized and staffed by EFSGV, was instrumental in bringing attention to lethal means safety counseling and urging training for health care providers as a priority in health care practice. In a 2017 comprehensive report, “Breaking Through Barriers: The Emerging Role of Health Care Provider Training Programs in Firearm Suicide Prevention,” the Consortium made recommendations that if implemented, would equip health care providers to deal tactfully, respectfully, and directly with the issue of firearms and suicide through lethal means safety counseling.
“We know that lethal means safety counseling works, and we’re pleased to see Representative Underwood and Senator Blumenthal incorporate the Consortium’s recommendations into this legislation,” said Vicka Chaplin, Director of Research Translation at CSGV and EFSGV, and managing director of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy. “This bill would go a long way toward making lethal means safety counseling more effective by updating the training that health care providers at the VA receive and expanding it to include far more affiliated providers, including through the VA’s Community Care Network. Military veterans stepped up to protect our lives. With this legislation, Representative Underwood and Senator Blumenthal are stepping up to protect theirs.”
Learn more about strategies and policy solutions that EFSGV recommended to specifically address firearm suicide among veterans and active military service members in the report, “Prevent Firearm Suicide: Service Members and Veterans.”
About the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Founded in 1974, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization. We believe gun violence should be rare and abnormal. CSGV develops and advocates for evidence-based solutions to reduce gun injury and death in all its forms.