Mental Health and Gun Ownership: A Difficult Conversation

mental illness awareness week

By Joe Bartozzi

The firearm industry wants to have a brave conversation. It’s not comfortable, but it’s a life-saving discussion.

Suicide is a very real issue and the firearm industry is taking it seriously. We offer Real Solutions and firearm manufacturers, distributors, retailers and ranges are doing their part to prevent a tragedy.

When an individual seeks to purchase a new firearm through a federally licensed retailer, they must pass a background check. This system is called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and is run by the FBI. The NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, has had a longstanding position that the NICS system is only as good as the records submitted to it. That’s why NSSF championed the Fix NICS Act. The Fix NICS Act was signed by President Donald Trump in March 2018 and has since been hailed by the Department of Justice as a success.

The industry, though, has been working to improve background checks for some time. NSSF’s FixNICS initiative was initially launched in 2013.  Through the end of August of 2020, the number of disqualifying mental health records submitted to NICS increased by 262 percent to about 6 million, up from about 1.7 million, in December 2012. This NSSF-backed legislation has provided the means to collect more reliable and accurate information for the NICS system, which contributes to preventing disqualified or prohibited people from gaining access to firearms.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week started Oct. 4. Many groups across the nation are bringing people and resources together to try to shake the stigma of discussing this very important topic. Too often, individuals who are suffering from mental illness or a short-term crisis feel alone and without support.

The NSSF prioritizes mental health and has partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to bring awareness and reduce suicides in the United States. The collaboration between the two groups started because the industry recognized that about half of suicides in the United States are by firearm.

As the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, AFSP raises awareness, provides resources, educates the public, and has chapters in every state. The NSSF promotes and values these programs that are designed to keep firearms out of the hands who shouldn’t have them. That includes those who might be suffering a mental health crisis as well as prohibited individuals and unsupervised children.

Taking Action

The NSSF and AFSP are working together to provide suicide prevention education to retailers, range owners and firearm owners. The goal is to help them recognize signs of suicide risk. The industry is also encouraging safe firearm storage, providing the means to securely store firearms when not in use, and educating the public about storage options so that firearms are not accessible by those at risk of self-harm or harm of others.

The industry strongly encourages anyone who might be concerned that a friend or family member may have thoughts of suicide to take advantage of the AFSP’s #RealConvo about mental health. Similarly, anyone who feels the need to talk to someone needs to know that there are training materials on how to reach out. Friends, family and fellow firearm owners are encouraged to have these discussions and urge someone in crisis to store their firearms safely and securely, locked and unloaded until the distress is resolved. The AFSP’s data shows that temporarily separating someone at risk for suicide from their firearm can significantly increase their chances of survival.


Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation


  1. avatar Debbie W. says:

    The facts show Gun Control is rooted in racism and genocide and that makes Gun Control a racist and nazi based agenda. And it confirms Gun Control Zealots are criminally insane.

    1. avatar Delta795 says:

      This is not gun control. Gun control seeks to restrict firearms access for people who are not ill or have no history of serious criminal activity. Restricting those with mental illness or criminal history from possessing firearms is a basic public safety issue.

      1. avatar WRM says:

        when lefty decides that wanting a gun in and of itself is a sign of mental illness the things really get fun

        1. avatar António Egas Moniz says:

          Don’t forget, the plague of political correctness currently afflicting the US has been brought by academics INCLUDING psychologists.

          “Oh, you think you need a gun? How long have you been feeling paranoid?”

        2. avatar GS650G says:

          When lefty says righty is wrong on everything and shouldn’t have guns it gets interesting..

      2. avatar Debbie W. says:

        delta….Wrong horsebreath. When you have people who simply allow someone else to handle their finances for what could be any number of reasons and that blackballs that individual from purchasing or possessing firearms that is back door Gun Control.
        It would be as if your ridiculous post was used to say you are a threat to public safety therefore you are prohibited from purchasing a firearm. Capice?

        1. avatar derek wildstar says:

          I agree with your point, it is a slippery slope. But I think we can all agree that documented paranoid Schizophrenia is probably a bad mix with gun ownership. When someone loses the capacity to discern reality from delusion, I would say that is a pretty clear red line. Also, whatever the hell Adam Lanza had is also a red line. We shouldn’t rule out including mental illness in the discussion as these crazy fckers who kill people because voices told them to, don’t do us any fcking favors at all. That may be the point Delta was trying to make.

      3. avatar Dog of War says:

        The cry for ‘public safety’ is probably only second to ‘for the public good’ in terms of excuses for the worst acts that man as committed against man in the history of humanity.

        I flat out reject the idea that you can make the people safe by make certain people weaker. Especially in a reality when people can just commit acts if violence via means other than a gun.

      4. avatar Debbie W. says:

        Fact is…Firearms have nothing to do with the cause or cure for mental illness. If you take the firearm away is the person cured? No.

        Even though the perp is deranged every time a mass shooting occurs the first thing out of the gate is everyone across the country who owns a firearm is guilty. Saying or implying such a thing is insane and such insanity cannot ever be allowed to stand.

        Tying firearms to mental illness in a world of sneaky insane Gun Control zealots maybe more about getting your firearm than keeping a firearm away from a person with issues.

        If you are going to tie mental health and gun owners it is wise to include car owners, knife owners, bat owners, brick owners, hammer owners, chair owners, gasoline owners, match owners, etc.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “Tying firearms to mental illness in a world of sneaky insane Gun Control zealots maybe more about getting your firearm than keeping a firearm away from a person with issues.”

          Strange how the Leftists are the ones that keep telling us that the mentally-ill are aren’t any more dangerous than anyone else, but are the first to demand that guns be taken “out of an abundance of caution”.

          And if that’s the case, shouldn’t the mentally-ill be institutionalized “out of an abundance of caution” as well? Seems rather reckless to allow them to walk the streets…

      5. avatar Montana Actual says:

        Let’s play how to spot the FUDD.

        Probably some new gun owner this site has been pandering to all year. Potential Biden voter. Doesn’t matter, obviously not pro 2A.

    2. avatar Debbie W. says:

      delta do gooder…Unfortunarely Gun Control is not as cut and dry as you assume it is.
      When individuals who for numerous reasons allow someone to handle their finances, etc. they can be classified as being a prohibited possessor of firearms. That is backdoor Gun Control and not basic public safety.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        “When individuals who for numerous reasons allow someone to handle their finances, etc. they can be classified as being a prohibited possessor of firearms.”

        Trump eliminated that :

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Once more, with feeling!

          TRUMP 2020!

        2. avatar James Campbell says:

          I got this Larry!
          Trump/Pence………to 2020, and beyond!

  2. avatar Darkman says:

    I know people who are certified Crazy with paperwork that I trust to have firearms more than some of the people who have them now. Being Verruckt doesn’t necessarily make you dangerous to others or your self. It can be used as a Tool to deprive people of their Rights by those who disagree with having certain Rights they don’t agree with.

    1. avatar Delta795 says:

      Your anecdotes are meaningless when it comes to crafting legislation. In a country of 330 million people, laws have to be written to apply to easily identifiable groups of people, like those convicted of felonies or who have been deemed by a judge to be incapable of exercising competent authority over themselves. “Crazy Friends of Darkman” is not such an easily identifiable group.

      1. avatar WRM says:

        its very difficult to trust a judge’s determination as they have shown their bias blatantly the last few years.

      2. avatar Darkman says:

        You are most likely one of the people I was talking about. Just another classic case of an “Offendial”.

      3. avatar Debbie W. says:

        delta do gooder…Not every felony should forever cost someone their rights. There are felonies on the books that are as riduculous as your posts. Not only are you not aware of the tentacles of Gun Control you lose it on felonies too. You belong in the group classified as pompous blabber mouths.

      4. avatar Joe blow and the ho show says:

        C’mon maaan…… don’t you get it? Gun control is rooted in nazi Christians…
        Don’t make me take you behind the barn…. lol

  3. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    At our range it takes two people to rent a gun. This prevents a person from walking off the street into the range and creating a mess.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      That sounds like a pretty good policy.
      Good on ya.

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Range near me had a guy rent several guns and spend hours shooting. 15min before closing he offed himself.

      Since there is no way to know or prevent someone from doing themselves it’s a fool’s errand to try.

      But if their attempts to save people from themselves disarm a large block of people the left is ok with it. The goal is large numbers of people on lists who are banned.

      1. avatar Sian says:

        Ranges around here have restrictions like if you rent a gun and you don’t bring one with you, you can’t go single. It’s a small thing but it helps, probably.

      2. avatar Ing says:

        But if their attempts to save people from themselves disarm a large block of people the left is ok with it.

        I’d take this a step further: if, and only if it will disarm a large block of ordinary people, the Left will be happy to accept the side effect of saving a few lives.

  4. avatar MtnDewey says:

    quite a few of you on these forums the past few years might want to be careful……

  5. avatar Nanashi says:

    The traitorous NSSF is a huge part of why metal illness is stigmatized: They’ve endorsed laws that permanently disenfranchise people for it. Of course nobody wants to seek help when they’re going to suffer irreparable harm to their liberty.

    1. avatar WRM says:

      hear hear

      1. avatar António Egas Moniz says:

        It’s just a harmless procedure.

    2. avatar Ing says:

      “Metal illness,” you say?

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        I’d argue “Banging your head” may be a cause… 😉

      2. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        I love 80’s metal music!!!

  6. avatar Biatec says:

    @Joe Bartozzi

    People like you are the why people kill themselves. You are the evil that leads to tyranny and government abuse.

    Suicide is not a job for government or you to solve. Mind your own business or move to Europe where you belong.

    You are a traitor to this country and a terrible human being. Get the F out.

  7. avatar WRM says:

    this crap is driving me crazy!

  8. avatar Sivartius says:

    Laws created supposedly for people with Mental Health issues WILL be used against law abiding Americans by people who disagree with their views & want power. It’s time to RETAKE our rights, not sacrifice more.

    1. avatar John in FL says:

      How long have you been having these thoughts?
      Have you been taking your medication?
      Perhaps we should raise the dose…

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Geez…just another pro-red flag post. I saw on my local lame stream tv station a story proclaiming young Kyle R. was potentially mentally deranged because he terrorized “protestors” in Kenosha. Self medicate. Don’t say nothin’. Man Up!!!

  10. avatar Texican says:

    Joe Bartozzi and the NSSF are conspiring with the enemies of our rights as Americans. They are making it seem like the gun mfrs. and the gun culture in general have some culpability when a person chooses to commit suicide with a gun. So-called mental health experts can’t predict or help these people 99.9% of the time. So the solution is to put it into the hands of laymen? As far as NICS goes, it should be abolished as it doesn’t serve any purpose but to make it more difficult to purchase a gun. It stops no crimes, therefore, it is useless.

  11. avatar Shadow says:

    Who gets to decide who is “mentally ill”, and who is the sane one? Also, will believing in the Second Amendment right be considered a mental illness? You can sure as hell bet that the “mental illness” angle is one massive loop hole crooked politicians are drooling at the prospect of exploiting.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Do you believe a constitutional right is worth dieing for? _ _ _. Believing in something at the risk of death is fanaticism, fanatics by percentage are known for emotional out breaks. Not being in control of your emotions is a mental illness.

  12. avatar UpInArms says:

    The big stumbling block here is money. Red Flag laws are cheap. They don’t put much of a burden on the state budget since most of the enforcement costs are shouldered by local police and county sheriffs. They’re a good way to do virtue signalling on the cheap.

    Mental health, on the other hand, is primarily a state affair. And it’s not cheap. Any serious effort to address the issue from this angle is going to cost the state some serious money. And since it’s the state that makes the laws and sets the budgets, we can expect red flag laws to be around for while unless the courts take some action.

  13. avatar Lunknard says:

    I don’t want to offend anyone because that wouldn’t be nice, but EVERY psych major, EVERY mental health counselor I have ever worked with has seemed ‘unbalanced’. Seems to me, people enter those fields because they want to figure out what’s wrong with their families. I would not want ANY of them determining who should and should not have a gun.

    How many mental mental health pros have I worked with? More than a score. Would not trust any of them to adjudicate individual gun ownership.

    Why have I worked with so many mental health people? I spent 3 years in corrections (no, not as an inmate) and another as an intern in a drug treatment facility.

    Most of the guards in the jail were far more well-balanced that the social workers and shrinks.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Ten years in the mental health field, as direct care staff, behavior management, two years of it with the criminally insane. The higher up the ladder you went the nuttier the psychiatrist got.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Not that tough. Any and all punishment should be the result of something a person has done, not something a person “might” do. Which just leads to the claim that it’s not punishment, it’s for your own good. A rational court would recognize that the overarching characteristic of America is Freedom, not Nanny. *I* will let you know what is for my own good, no judge should be involved in that, or any legislature either one.

    3. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      The movie theater shooter in Colorado was being seen by a college psychiatrist. He reportedly told her he wanted, and was planning to kill people. She didn’t call the police. If your going to hold a gun seller accountable? Why not hold the doctor accountable?

  14. avatar jakee308 says:

    I’ll admit that some suicides are the result of imbalanced minds reaching a destructive conclusion and thus are to be condemned and the means to prevent them seriously discussed and put in place.

    That said, there also must be a serious discussion about the possibility that many who do reach that decision, are making it with a sound mind and logical reasons and thus should be left alone.

    This is a dichotomy and so there will always be an imbalance of being too careful and too uncaring but it is necessary in case someone goes overboard and makes it too difficult for a person to have the freedom to take an action they feel they must.

    I believe the firearms industry is asking for trouble by taking this on. It only gives the anti-gunners more reasons they can use saying that even the industry knows they’re in the wrong with their products or some such verbiage.

    Let the policy makers and psychiatrists argue this out on how to designate those who need help from those who need to be let be.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Those who need help are the ones who ask for it. ALL others should be left alone.

  15. avatar Leigh says:

    Suicide is a choice… your body…your choice.
    Every leftist dem/lib knows THAT!!! Right?
    STOP conflating and confusing suicide with gun violence.
    Unless it is murder-suicide it is very different.
    You never see suicide-murder…. ever.
    Seek help…offer help….but accept that sometimes you must deal with a persons choice.
    ALL lives end in death at some point.

    1. avatar Darkman says:

      Lefty Liberals support a person’s Right to commit suicide as long as it doesn’t involve firearms. Suicide is OK, Firearms are bad. Who Da Thunk It.

      1. avatar jeff says:


    2. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      That’s what the Libertarians say. Also the three L’s are telling the police to kill themselves all the time. They promote suicide as normal and good behavior. Just watch their “1st amendment” riots.

  16. avatar Dog of War says:

    The tricky part of this is that the medical establishment is so rampantly and institutionally anti-gun that even the mention of someone having a medical or mental issue can and will be used to disarm a person. This makes having that ‘conversation’ rather difficult.

  17. avatar Frank says:

    lets keep on pushing the “fix nics” because that really isnt infringing

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      NICS is pure and unadulterated infringing. Did you forget “sarc”?

  18. avatar possum says:

    I’m to busy building my Perpetual Neutrino Fission Bombnm to feel alone, and once it’s built mankinds insecurities will vanish.

  19. avatar chumley says:

    I value my gun rights above all others. Medical records are now computerized and last forever. If you read the HIPAA exceptions notice they make you sign at the doctor’s office, you’ll see there are so many exceptions to the law it might as well not even exist. You have absolutely no right to medical privacy as anyone who wants your information falls into one or more exception categories.
    Therefore, should I ever need psychiatric help I will not seek it.

  20. avatar MADDMAXX says:

    because the industry recognized that about half of suicides in the United States are by firearm.

    HALF of all SUCCESSFUL suicide attempts are by gun (about 19,000 annually) which means that about half were NOT accomplished by using a firearm, but 85% of ALL suicide attempts are by drug overdose…. They should also have bothered to point out that suicide deaths by gun contribute to over half of the total number of gun related deaths annually in the US… Bottom line, if someone wants to be dead there are 10,000 ways to get it done, guns are just more efficient and don’t require the balls to jump from a tall building, step out in front of a speeding train or drive head on into a bridge abutment at 100 miles an hour…. (personally I’d prefer to take my life savings to a whorehouse in Nevada and attempt to screw myself to death)…

    1. avatar American says:


      All gun control including “mental illness” is unconstitutional.

  21. avatar Shire-man says:

    Ah, “Awareness.”
    Making other people’s problems your own since ….. well, forever.
    Don’t you “awareness” types have any problems of your own? If so, keep them to yourself.

  22. avatar Imayeti says:

    Guns and mental health are a difficult subject only because they are unrelated. Suicide, for example, occurs by many methods whether firearms are available or not.

  23. avatar ChoseDeath says:

    All I got out of this is the NSSF can go fuck itself.

  24. avatar Jeff says:

    If you own a gun and trust the left, perhaps you are mentally unfit. The left will stop at nothing to disarm the American people. If they have to twist mental health laws so be it. If they have to abuse mental health laws so be it. If you trust the left you are a fool.

    They are zealots. Nothing good ever comes from zealots.

  25. avatar EpsteinDidNOTKillHimself says:

    Any one displaying signs and symptoms of TDS, should not be allowed to own firearms, operate heavy machinery, own property, reproduce, or vote.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Correct. Thus, all votes cast for Biden should be discarded.

      1. avatar James Campbell says:

        I’m slow joe b……. and I approve this message.
        Did I mention? I like to take kamala behind the barn……rub her hairy legs…….then watch the hair stand back up.
        Com’on man, who wouldn’t like that!
        Trump/Pence 2020, learn it, know it, live it!

  26. avatar Bemused Berserker says:

    First off, if someone is intent on ending their life, there’s very little that can be done to stop them, No Matter What Method They Use To Terminate Their Life. An honest and unbiased look at States that have had Red Flag Laws on the books shows this universally. Yes, there’s a drop in Suicides by Firearms, but this is offset by a corresponding rise in Suicides by Other Means. The observational analysis of the data shows that Red Flag Laws aren’t reducing suicide overall, just reducing one method of suicide. Only an idiot (or Democrat) would claim that it’s effective.
    Yes, our Mental Health System is a mess, and has been for years. Add the Civil Rights Lawyers in, and it’s a Fuster Cluck, since they’re the ones who passed the laws against institutionalization.

  27. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    If they are deemed mentally dangerous for gun ownership? Then I say you are too dangerous to be walking around. Just as If you are on a terrorist watch list. And are denied the ability to buy a gun. Then you should also not be walking around. Lock both of them up.

  28. avatar Tbill says:

    Who on this post actually has reviewed data such as that comparing violent crime with mental illness? Here’s the answer: if we put a fence around ALL of the mentally ill, we’d reduce violent felonies by 1%. That’s it: 1%.

    If you deny all of those with any form of mental defect, you’d be disarming over 30 million people.

    This is a Trojan horse issue. Put plainly: there is no empirical relationship between mental illness and violence. Too many violent felons are NOT mentally defective, mentally ill. They are simply evil.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email