The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention represents an exciting new opportunity to help reduce the misuse of firearms in America.
As the trade association for the firearms industry, NSSF has for more than 50 years encouraged gun owners to safely handle and securely store their firearms. Through brochures such as Firearms Responsibility in the Home, videos like Firearms Safety Depends on You, infographics such as Safe Storage Options for Your Lifestyle and our Project ChildSafe and “Own It? Respect It. Secure It” initiatives, we remind people that safely storing firearms is the No. 1 way to help prevent misuse, accidents and thefts.
Suicide prevention is not an entirely new area of involvement for NSSF. In recent years, we have worked with the Veterans Administration, the State of Utah and mental health agencies to help educate gun owners and the public on how to keep firearms safely out of reach of those who may wish to do themselves harm, as well as helping to reduce firearms accidents, already at historic low levels, even further.
What is new, however, is that our partnership with AFSP will enable NSSF to play an important role in a first-of-its-kind national effort to distribute jointly developed suicide prevention educational materials to gun owners. We’ll reach the firearms community through the help of firearms retailers and shooting ranges, which make up a portion of NSSF’s 13,000 members, along with organizations that run hunter education classes and target shooting competitions.
Research shows that more than 100 million Americans enjoy owning rifles, shotguns and handguns for target shooting, hunting, collecting and personal and home protection. When these firearms are not being used by an authorized person, they must be safely and securely stored. It is gun owners’ most important responsibility to make sure their firearms are not casually accessible to unauthorized persons.
We’re pleased to say that significant progress has been made in reducing fatal firearms accidents, which are now less than 1 percent of all fatal accidents annually, according to National Safety Council statistics. Our Project ChildSafe has helped by providing over 37 million free firearm safety kits that include a gun lock and safety education brochure to communities in every state through partnerships with more than 15,000 law enforcement departments.
With nearly two-thirds of all firearms fatalities being suicides, however, it’s important that NSSF, its member companies and gun owners do their part to help #StopSuicide as well.
AFSP works diligently on many fronts to reduce suicide and has established a bold goal with its Project 2025, aiming to reduce the annual U.S. suicide rate 20 percent by the year 2025. NSSF fully supports this effort, and we want to help AFSP clear this high bar by reaching gun owners and their families with information on warning signs, prevention resources and secure firearms storage options.
To AFSP’s credit, it has chosen to focus on education and saving lives, completely setting aside the contentious politics surrounding the subject of firearms. That approach has made it possible for NSSF to enter into this promising partnership and has led to an open exchange of ideas as we work together on developing a comprehensive national education program.
The benefits to our two organizations are many. NSSF gains from AFSP’s extensive knowledge on suicide prevention and mental health. AFSP benefits from NSSF’s knowledge of secure firearms storage options, our understanding of firearms owners and that gun owners consider us a trusted provider of information.
With help from our new colleagues at AFSP, we continue to learn that mental health conditions are treatable, that suicide is preventable, that Talk Saves Lives and that ours is a message of caring and hope. We will help pass on this important information to the firearms community, which is motivated to do more in this area. No one wants to see firearms abused.
Our partnership’s first big step will be the launch of AFSP’s pilot project with its community-based chapters in four states this fall working with firearms retailers and shooting ranges to provide education to gun owners on suicide prevention and firearms. And early next year we expect to have an AFSP representative address firearms retailers and the outdoor media at our annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show.
Our partnership holds tremendous potential to help save lives. As you can see, AFSP and NSSF are working together for a common cause.
Learn more about our partnership with NSSF by clicking here.
Learn more about the Pilot Programs by clicking here.
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