The White House unveils new plan to prevent gun suicide – NBC10 Philadelphia

What to know

  • In 2019, firearms were the most common method used for suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for nearly 24,000 deaths
  • Part of the cross-cutting plan will focus on the safe storage of weapons
  • An expanded effort will also be underway within the Department of Veterans Affairs with a focus on suicide prevention and security planning

The Biden administration is rolling out a new initiative aimed at reducing suicide with weapons and combating the significant increases in suicide among members of the military and veterans.

The White House announces the new plan on Tuesday, which officials say is an unprecedented focus by the federal government on reducing the risk of suicide through information and training campaigns and new rules to increase the availability of weapons storage products.

The plan calls on federal agencies including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, the Justice Department, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and the Department of Transportation’s emergency medical office to create public awareness campaigns to encourage safer weapons storage and training of advisers, emergency services and others.

The effort also includes the Justice Department finalizing a rule first proposed in 2016 that would require stores that sell firearms to also offer secure weapon storage and security devices, the White House said.

In 2019, firearms were the most common method used for suicide deaths in the United States, accounting for nearly 24,000 deaths, or just over half of all suicide deaths, according to federal health statistics. Experts say that many people who take the lives of guns typically have quick access to firearms and have tended to be gun owners or their family members.

As part of the plan, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will distribute a guide to firearms dealers specifying both safety steps required by law and additional steps recommended by the federal government. The guide will also describe the Justice Department’s focus on prosecution of gun crimes and violations of federal gun laws.

The administration said the ATF would also “seek to revoke dealers’ licenses the first time they violate federal law,” with limited exceptions for “extraordinary circumstances.” These violations will include the sale of weapons to anyone who cannot legally own them, failure to run a background check, falsification of federal records or refusing to cooperate in required ATF inspections.

The federal government will also create maps to help people find places to store weapons safely outside their homes, officials said. Officials will also expand efforts within the Department of Veterans Affairs with a focus on suicide prevention and safety planning along with training family members for people who may be at higher risk of suicide, administration officials said.

The Ministry of Defense’s annual suicide report released in September showed that 580 military personnel, including 384 active service members, died of suicide in 2020. The suicide rate among active service members has statistically increased since 2015, the report states. There has been no statistical change for reservists and members of the National Guard during the same time frame, according to the report.

Many firearms dealers have already stepped up suicide prevention efforts as the number of gun sales in the United States rose to a historic high in January, continuing a rise that began when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020. Some firearms dealers have also begun handing out or offering cards with the phone number of suicide prevention hotlines and tips for identifying signs of depression or other mental health issues.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or contact the crisis text line by typing ‘Home’ to 741741.

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