Firearms play a significant role in many Veterans’ lives, with nearly 50% of Veterans owning firearms. VA respects the importance of firearms for these Veterans and is dedicated to helping them learn about safe storage options.
Safe storage is an important part of VA’s comprehensive suicide prevention strategy. Research has shown that many suicidal crises are brief, so putting space between someone experiencing a crisis and a firearm — or other potentially lethal means, like prescription medication — can provide enough time for the crisis to pass before a tragedy occurs. In addition, safe storage can help protect a Veteran’s loved ones — including children and grandchildren — from accidents.
New resources to help Veterans understand lethal means safety
VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention recently released two resources to help Veterans and their loved ones understand the potentially lifesaving benefits of safely storing firearms and other potentially dangerous household items.
- The Reducing Firearm & Other Household Safety Risks for Veterans and Their Families brochure provides best practices for safely storing firearms and medications, along with advice for Veterans’ loved ones on how to talk to Veterans about safe storage.
- The Means Safety Messaging for Clinical Staff pocket card provides medical professionals with easily digestible information for talking with Veteran patients about safe storage. Clinicians looking for more information on speaking to Veteran patients can read the From Science to Practice review on how lethal means safety saves lives.
These resources are designed to help Veterans, their loved ones, and the supporting clinicians find the safe storage option that aligns with the Veteran’s values and priorities.
Safe and affordable solutions
VA’s partner organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, recommends several effective ways to safely secure firearms, including:
- Cable locks
- A lockbox
- A gun safe
The following are safe storage recommendations to help Veterans prevent intentional or unintentional overdose:
- Have a family member or friend help manage your medication dosages.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to limit the number of refills or the amount of medication prescribed.
- Use a daily pill box to set aside pills for a week, and then lock the rest away.
While Veterans who may be at risk for suicide can take these steps themselves, we all have a role to play in empowering Veterans to stay safe. If you are concerned about a Veteran in your life, ask them directly whether they are thinking about suicide, encourage them to seek care, and start the conversation about safe firearm and medication storage.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
About the author: Dr. Andrew Moon is the associate director for education and training in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.