Partnering with gun owners to prevent suicide

October 25, 2023—Engaging with gun shops, firing ranges, and pro-gun individuals to promote the safe storage of guns may be key to decreasing rates of suicide in the United States, according to experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

An October 10 article in The Messenger and an October 19 article in Scientific American covered the topic of safe storage and included insights from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s  Deborah Azrael, director of research, and Cathy Barber, senior researcher and founder of the suicide prevention program Means Matter.

Given that firearms are a more deadly method of suicide than all other methods combined, Azrael emphasized the lifesaving potential of keeping guns in a safe or in an off-site storage facility—especially if they could be accessed by someone experiencing mental distress.

“The way to keep the people in your life safe is to make sure that, if they’re having mental health issues in general, that those guns are secured,” Azrael told The Messenger. “Go the extra route of taking that gun and putting it someplace where they can’t access it in a moment of rage or despair or anguish or pain.”

Such measures are “low-hanging fruit,” Barber told Scientific American. And they are best promoted through partnership within pro-gun communities.

“Guns aren’t going to disappear,” Barber said in The Messenger. “The things on the legislative agenda aren’t going to dramatically reduce access. So we need to try these other things that work within an owner’s values and community to see if we can get some useful change there.”

Read The Messenger article: Gun Owners Can Aid in Suicide Prevention, Expert Says

Read the Scientific American article: This Public Health Measure Bridges the National Divide over Firearms—Just Don’t Call It Gun Control

Read a Harvard Public Health magazine article: Uncommon Ground