They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That seems to be the case with the White House’s announcement of executive actions to prevent suicides since they are what is already being done voluntarily by the firearm industry. The firearm industry, however, actually applauds these measures and welcomes the Biden administration embracing initiatives our industry has proven are effective.
The White House rolled out a strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide that includes programs the firearm industry has been doing for years – even decades. That includes promoting safe and responsible storage of firearms and outreach to members of the U.S. Armed Services and veterans. Those are two key programs that comprise part of the firearm industry’s Real Solutions. Safer Communities. campaign.
The White House is calling for increased public awareness outreach to veterans and wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to finalize a 2016 proposed rule that firearm retailers certify they offer secure gun storage and safety devices, something they have been required by law to do since 1998. The White House included threats to revoke firearm retailer licenses and federal prosecution for violating laws, but the truth is, firearm manufactures and retailers follow the law and are active participants in promoting firearm safety.
These safety measures might sound familiar since the firearm industry has been doing this for decades.
Members of the gun industry truly believe in the importance of safe storage of firearms. For nearly 25 years firearm manufacturers have voluntarily provided a free locking device with each new firearm they ship from their factories. Firearms not in use should be secured and remain beyond the reach of those who can’t be trusted to possess them safely and responsibly, whether that’s a child, a prohibited individual or someone who may be suffering through a mental health crisis.
NSSF’s Project ChildSafe went a step further. The firearm industry voluntarily partners with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and five U.S. territories to distribute free firearm safety kits. Those include cable-style locking devices that, when properly installed, render a firearm inoperable.
Over 40 million of these gun safety kits with locking devices have been distributed through law enforcement. Combined with the locks included in every firearm sold at retail, that number tops 100 million.
However, these locks aren’t the only way firearms can be secured. Project ChildSafe recognizes there are many paths to firearm safety and provides educational materials to gun owners to evaluate and choose the best methods of securing firearms that will meet their needs. Cable-style gun locks might be the best option for some, but others might opt for trigger locks, digital or RFID safes or large traditional gun safes. Every gun owner should assess what their storage needs are and make the decisions that best meet their needs, especially since those needs will change over the course of their life.
It’s not just locking up guns, though. The firearm industry recognizes that 50 percent of suicides involve a firearm and took a proactive approach to reducing this sad statistic. NSSF partnered with the largest suicide prevention organization in America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), to provide educational and crisis resources to firearm retailers and gun ranges.
Together, the firearm industry and the suicide prevention experts are challenging gun owners to have a “brave conversation” with those who might be suffering through a mental health crisis to step in and prevent a tragedy.
That partnership was so successful that it was extended to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to the Department of Defense. That includes a dedicated website, keepitsecure.net with educational materials, and public service announcements that speak to the importance of secure storage that “puts space between thoughts and a trigger.”
That brave conversation, combined with an active approach to secure firearms and creating time and distance before a tragic decision to take one’s life is critical. The firearm industry didn’t wait for a government mandate or executive action to act. The tragedy of suicide demands more and that’s why the firearm industry has been doing more.
NSSF’s President and CEO Joe Bartozzi testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee telling Congress of the importance of these programs in May when U.S. senators were debating mandatory storage laws.
“What we’re talking about here, from NSSF’s perspective, is a proactive approach to educating people. Many of these proposed laws would only come into effect after a tragedy has occurred.” Bartozzi said. “It is more important to prevent a tragedy than to deal with the pieces afterwards.”
NSSF knows these programs are effective. Project ChildSafe has been recognized by the Government Accountability Office for its efficacy and was named a finalist for the National Safety Council’s Green Cross award. Project ChildSafe has received Justice Department grant funding under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
These are Real Solutions that make a real difference. The firearm industry has been willing to work with anyone who is willing to partner to bring Real Solutions to the table while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. That’s important to remember.
Bartozzi testified that his predecessor, Steve Sanetti, spoke with then-Vice President Joe Biden about Project Childsafe when at a White House meeting in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Referring to NSSF, Biden said, “You guys are doing a lot of good things, including the gun lock thing. And this isn’t Joe Biden just blowing smoke. I mean it.”
That was 2013. The firearm industry, through NSSF, has continued to “do good things.” The firearm industry welcomes the Biden administration’s help in promoting these efforts and agreeing that Real Solutions truly means Safer Communities.
If you know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). The Veterans Crisis Line connects Service members and Veterans in crisis, as well as their family members and friends, with qualified Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text messaging service. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder. You can also start a confidential online chat session at Veterans Crisis Chat.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.