Law enforcement agencies and gun retailers can be resources to concerned families for storing guns to prevent suicide, according to a new study from the University of Colorado School of Public Health at Anschutz Medical Campus. It is the first to examine the extent to which these organizations are willing to offer voluntary, temporary storage – especially when a household member is in crisis – according to surveys conducted in eight mountain west states.
[Photo: Creative Commons/US Air Force]
“Most people, including health providers, may not know what safe outside-the-home storage is available and what their options are,” said Dr. Carol Runyan, lead investigator and professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. “A suicide attempt by a gun is almost always fatal, and often the time between contemplating suicide by gun and acting is short. If medical advice to an at-risk patient is to remove guns from the household, where exactly should they be stored and where are those resources available?”
Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health and the CU School of Medicine sought to understand how, and under what circumstances, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and retailers could be partners to gun-owning families and health care providers, particularly when concerned about the mental health of a household member, by safely and temporarily providing gun storage. They surveyed law enforcement agencies and gun retailers in Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming to gauge their willingness to provide storage under various conditions to both gun owners and non-owners.
“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” Dr. Runyan said. “When a friend who has guns is going through a tough time, we should ask them about safe storage. It’s not about taking away guns or their gun rights, it’s about trying to be safe and looking out for each other.”