VA Focuses on Guns, Prevent Suicides

VA Focuses on Guns, Prevent Suicides

Veterans Affairs is increasing its focus on firearms safety to reduce suicides among veterans. As of 2019, 70.2% of veteran suicides involved firearms. The number of individuals who used firearms in 2018 was 69.9%, which is more than the population of the entire United States. It is estimated that gunplay accounts for 50% of suicides in the country, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. 

This is why the VA staff is working on a suicide prevention plan to focus on the importance of lethal means of safety by launching a suicide prevention campaign, according to its website. 

This campaign will include staff training and public service announcements for veterans. The VA has already run many public service messages and safety training programs, but it was often downplayed or curbed by gun rights activists and some conservative lawmakers. Some also view the efforts as an attempt to infringe on individuals.  

To reduce the number of suicides among veterans, public health officials aim to focus on gun ownership and the safety of all veterans. 

Dr. Matthew Miller, executive director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program, and other VA officials acknowledge the concerns of the gun activists but said they believe the issue of veteran suicide should be discussed widely to save the lives of more veterans.

According to Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., the mandatory removal or restrictions on firearms by veterans seeking help would be counter-productive since someone deciding to attempt suicide and taking action is rarely more than ten minutes. They are taught to lock up their weapons and keep them unloaded when they are not being used. 

Veterans at high risk for suicide were explicitly targeted for the VA's suicide prevention initiative, prioritizing firearm safety. The VA and other health care systems might think about implementing these types of programs to provide assistance to veterans.