Voluntary gun storage may help prevent suicide deaths

Around the U.S., public health practitioners are partnering with gun owners to prevent firearm suicides by encouraging voluntary storage—removal of guns from the home—during times of crisis.

Cathy Barber, a senior researcher at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is a strong advocate for this approach, which she learned about from gun owners themselves through her work leading the School’s firearm suicide prevention programs, the Means Matter Campaign and the Gun Shop Project. She spoke to Greeley, Colorado’s KUNC radio for a September 29, 2020 article about experiences with firearm suicide and voluntary gun storage in a rural Colorado town.

In the U.S., according to the article, firearms cause more than half of all suicide deaths, and more than 60% of gun deaths are suicides. Experts say that the time of crisis leading up to a suicide can be very brief. Without easy access to a lethal means of self-harm, many deaths may be prevented. That’s why Barber and others hope to create a norm that gun owners voluntarily hand over their guns when they are going through tough times.

“Without gun owners’ involvement, we’re not going to be able to tackle this issue,” Barber said.

Listen to or read the KUNC article: How Do You Get Gun Owners To Give Up Their Guns During A Crisis? Ask.

Learn more

Preventing suicide by limiting access to guns (Harvard Chan School news)

Teams of health professionals, gun owners work to prevent gun suicides (Harvard Chan School news)