Locking up firearms to prevent suicide

by Tony Gomez, BS, RS, Manager, Violence and Injury Prevention, Public Health Seattle & King County

I’ve worked on Violence and Injury Prevention for over thirty years. I consistently notice in the media and in conversations about firearms that usually the discussion focuses on tragic homicides. But, the truth is that mFirst Person Imageost firearm deaths are suicides—often hidden from the public conversation. In King County, nearly 70% of firearm deaths being suicides, it’s crucial we come together despite different ideologies. There are numerous entities including King County that have a deep commitment to suicide prevention and are working together to address this “silent” killer of our residents.

With firearm ownership so prevalent in King County (~25%) –and some estimated 30,000 households that keep at least one firearm loaded and unlocked–we can’t afford to wait any longer to get those easily stolen and accessed firearms locked up.

Lok-it-up 7-16-09 005

We know that impulsivity plays a significant role in suicide attempts; easy access to highly lethal means, such as firearms, increases risk.  Strong evidence exists, both in the United States and abroad, that restricting access to lethal means is an effective way to reduce suicide.

Suicide prevention efforts in King County and elsewhere in the United States now champion safe storage of firearms.

King County efforts towards safe firearm storage

The Safe Storage Saves Lives Campaign (is one King County campaign that informs firearm owners and others about the benefits of safe storage. The website (www.lokitup.org) includes links to firearm safe storage dealers, many of whom offer discounts on selected device, research on firearms storage and lethal means restriction, and more.

Additionally, King County has adopted Harvard University’s Means Matter training for mental health and other healthcare providers. Since this was started in the fall 2014, over 40 providers have been trained in King County.

Seattle Children’s (hospital) recent lock box giveaway was a huge success– the lines were hundreds of people long! The event is also a fine example of how firearm and non-firearm owners can have reasonable discussions and also can make improvements that will potentially save lives.

Lockbox giveaway2014
Lockbox giveaway2014 Customers wait for free lock boxes at Seattle Children’s lock box giveaway event.

Responsible and safe firearm owners know a quick action lock box allows them access to their firearm in an emergency AND will keep their households and community safer.

I recently wrote a blog post for NACCHO (National Association of City and County Health Officials) that includes more data, national information, and additional resources. Please learn more at:  http://nacchovoice.naccho.org/2014/12/15/safe-storage-of-firearms-prevents-suicide/

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