The National Shooting Sports Foundation announced this week it was launching a national antisuicide campaign with the help of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It comes months after a successful pilot program between the groups.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, one of country’s largest gun industry groups, is teaming with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in efforts to prevent suicides nationwide.
The effort—announced this week at NSSF’s Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show—touches upon a serious issue: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms were the most commonly used way to commit suicide among males in 2015, at 56.9 percent, and accounted for roughly half of all suicides in 2014.
The two groups have already been working on tackling this issue—expanding on an effort they launched in August. That initiative, a four-state pilot program, brought together local AFSP chapters with gun retailers and representatives at shooting ranges and hunting clubs. The four states involved—Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Mexico—saw these AFSP chapters build relationships with the local gun industry, helping vendors and shooting range owners alike spot the signs that come with suicide risk.
“By increasing public education of firearms and suicide prevention, and by encouraging the use of safe storage options and thus reducing access to lethal means, we give suicidal individuals something they desperately need: time,” AFSP Chief Medical Officer Christine Moutier said in a news release. “Time for the intense suicidal risk to diminish and time for someone to intervene with mental health support and resources.”
AFSP is working with NSSF as part of its ongoing Project 2025, which aims to lower the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025—using data-based analysis to take action in necessary areas.
NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti says this effort, which is being expanded throughout the country in 2017, is intended to build upon the foundation’s existing gun-safety efforts.
“As the industry’s trade association with more than 12,000 members, we want to help,” Sanetti said in the release. “By making gun owners and the public more aware of suicide and responsible firearm storage, we are confident that we will help save lives.”
Retailers reacted positively to the expansion of the initiative. Dick Abramson, the president and CEO of Colorado’s Centennial Gun Club, said in a news release that the effort formalizes things that his club was already doing.
“By expanding the education and suicide prevention program nationally, we will have a much easier time convincing retailers to get involved, because NSSF is a name they trust,” Abramson said.