Suicide Prevention: A Role for Firearm Dealers and Ranges
The project’s overall goal is to share materials, developed by and for firearm retailers and range owners, on ways they can help prevent suicide. Its objectives are to:
Develop and share guidelines with gun store/firing range owners about how to avoid selling or renting a firearm to a suicidal customer
Encourage gun stores and firing ranges to display and distribute suicide prevention materials tailored to their customers
We’ve stopped by virtually all of the independent gun shops in the state (67 by our count) to see whether they were displaying materials we had sent them and to hear their advice.
Here’s what we learned:
- About half (48%) of all gunshops in NH are displaying our suicide prevention materials—either the safety brochures, poster, hotline cards, or all three. That’s a huge response!
- Lots of the shop owners had advice. Based on their suggestions, we changed the photo on the poster. Both the original and the new one are available below.
- Some gun shops got more involved. A couple of shop owners joined the Coalition; someone made a video based on the safety brochure; someone placed an editorial about the project in their newsletter; and long-time Coalition member, Massad Ayoob, wrote an article called Avoiding Disasters that was published in Combat Handguns.
- And, we heard stories like these:
- “A woman came into the shop asking about buying a gun because of some emotional problems. I told her she didn’t need a gun, she needed spiritual help. So I took her to my pastor. She never did come back for a gun.”
- “There was a guy I wouldn’t sell a gun to because he just didn’t seem right. I later got a letter from his attorney thanking me for saving his client’s life.”
A summary of the Gun Shop Project is included in the List of Products.
In 2009, in the course of less than a week, three people (with no connection to each other) bought a firearm from the same store and killed themselves within hours of the purchase. The Medical Examiner’s office brought this to the attention of their mental health liaison, and a small group of firearm retailers and mental health/public health practitioners met to explore whether there is a role for gun stores in preventing suicide. The group was later adopted by the NH Firearm Safety Coalition.
According to information abstracted from the NH medical examiner’s death investigation reports, among the 144 firearm suicides that occurred over a two-year period ending 6/30/09, nearly one in ten involved a gun that was purchased or rented within a week of the suicide (usually within hours). The figure is likely an underestimate since two-thirds of the reports made no mention of when the gun was obtained.
The Coalition originally developed materials and visited about half the gun shops in NH to get feedback from shop owners on the overall project and the draft materials. Response was very positive. Materials were adapted based on the input received. Packets were mailed out to independent, storefront gun shops in August 2011. Then all the shops were visited to see how many were displaying materials and to get additional feedback. Again, some materials were adapted.
Materials were developed to engage gun shops in helping to prevent suicide. Those for the gun shop owners and their employees are designed to help them identify and address a potentially suicidal customer. The products for customers urge them to be alert for signs of suicide among family and friends, to know where to call for help (1-800-273- TALK ) and to make sure that guns aren’t available to those in a suicidal crisis.
Use the links below to print or view copies of our materials. To order a DVD of the video, a copy of the poster, or the business cards, send us an email requesting the product by title.
- Most Popular – Brochure for customers/public: Gun Safety Rules – The 11 Commandments
An example of a localized version of this document
- Suicide Prevention Poster (revised) Concerned About a Family Member
- Suicide Prevention Poster (original) Concerned About a Family Member
- Lifeline Card (4 Sided)
- Lifeline Card ( 2 sided)
- Tip Sheet for Dealers
- Tip Sheet for Range Owners
- FAQ Sheet
- Video – Suicide Prevention: A Role for Gun Shops and Ranges (length: 5 minutes)
Several organizations are interested in adapting these materials for use in their state. We are actively working with several of them. If you are interested, please contact Elaine Frank to discuss next steps.
About The Coalition
The New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition brings together individuals and organizations with a broad range of views on gun ownership who share a concern with safety and with preventing suicide. The group includes: gun shops and firing ranges, legislators, injury prevention and mental health advocates, researchers and committed volunteers.
Since the Coalition first formed in 1994, the group has produced a variety of public education materials initially geared towards young people: a brochure and other printed materials, Firearm Safety Display Kits available for use at health fairs and educational programs, and two videos entitled “Staying Safe Around Guns – What You DON’T Know Can Hurt You” – one geared to middle school students and the other to high school students. Since then, more than 4500 copies of these have been distributed throughout NH, the US and abroad.
In 2009, the Coalition took on the Gun Shop Project – a collaborative effort to engage gun shop and firing range owners, their employees and their customers on preventing suicide, the number one type of firearm death in the U.S.
NH Firearms Safety Coalition In The News
- Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention – Suicides at Shooting Ranges
- The Gun Shop Project: Do Firearm Retailers Have a Role in Suicide Prevention?
Backwoods Home Magazine – Our Role in Suicide Prevention
- Union Leader – Beyond the Stigma: ‘The next wave of gun safety’
- NHPR – Amid Debate Over Gun Policy, An Unlikely Team Finds Some Consensus in N.H.
- Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior – A Suicide Prevention Campaign for Firearm Dealers in New Hampshire
- Journal of the American Medical Association – Reducing Suicides Through Partnerships Between Health Professionals and Gun Owner Groups—Beyond Docs vs Glocks
- Scientific American – A Plan to Prevent Gun Suicides
- CNN Video – How Gun Shops are Stopping Suicides
- Backwoods Home Magazine – Guns, suicide prevention, and backwoods lifestyle
- US News – Gun Shops, Public Health Officials Find Common Ground
- Boston Globe – NH responds to rising suicide rate
- Billings Gazette – Means Matter: Gun lethality affects suicide rate
Please direct questions about the NH Firearm Safety Coalition to the Co-Chairs: