Gun Industry Launches New Effort to Reduce Suicides

National Shooting Sports Foundation partners with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

NSSF and AFSP pamphlets / Stephen Gutowski
January 22, 2017

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced a new program to combat suicide at its industry show on Tuesday.

The group, which represents gun manufacturers and dealers, is partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, to spearhead a new nationwide effort. The program is designed to educate gun owners on the warning signs and risk factors of those who may be contemplating suicide as well as the importance of securely storing firearms.

The groups plan to leverage the NSSF's network of thousands of gun retailers and range owners and AFSP's experience and expertise in suicide prevention to distribute training and literature to gun owners across the country. They are looking to reduce the number of suicides by taking on the most common form: self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

"Of all suicide deaths in our nation, nearly 50 percent are by firearm," said Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP's chief medical officer. "By increasing public education of firearms and suicide prevention, and by encouraging the use of safe storage options and thus reducing access to lethal means, we give suicidal individuals something they desperately need: time. Time for the intense suicidal risk to diminish and time for someone to intervene with mental health support and resources."

Suicide is also the most common type of firearms-related death—totaling nearly two-thirds of all firearms deaths in most years. The 20,000 suicides involving firearms annually dwarf the number of murders or accidental deaths involving firearms. It is an area the firearms industry hopes to have a hand in improving.

"Our partnership with AFSP allows us to expand our decades-long firearms safety efforts to include suicide prevention education,"said Steve Sanetti, NSSF's president and CEO. "As the industry's trade association with more than 12,000 members, we want to help. By making gun owners and the public more aware of suicide and responsible firearm storage, we are confident that we will help save lives."

The program has already completed a five-month pilot phase in four states. Colorado's Centennial Gun Club has already begun suicide training and seen positive results.

"When I first heard about this partnership I was really encouraged," said Dick Abramson, Centennial's president. "Working with experts in the field, we have been trying to teach gun owners about suicide prevention on a local level for a while—and so far it's been a bootstrap effort, recruiting one firearms retailer at a time. But by expanding the education and suicide prevention program nationally, we will have a much easier time convincing retailers to get involved because NSSF is a name they trust."

"We know there is a real thirst in the community for this kind of education."

Published under: Guns