The community level examines the social and physical environments in which an individual exists and how they are associated with risk and protective factors. Interventions for firearm suicide prevention at this level aim to influence the community environment, such as engaging firearm retailers through gun shop projects or educating gun owners about suicide prevention in the community.
Educating gun owners about suicide risk is one area of common ground among gun violence prevention and gun rights advocates. Educating gun owners about the relationship between firearm access and suicide has the opportunity to save lives.
Across the country, gun owner groups have collaborated with suicide prevention advocates and public health professinals to promote firearm suicide prevention. A national partnership between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Shooting Sports Foundation aims to distribute suicide prevention materials to gun owners, and both groups have official partnerships with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for suicide prevention and promoting safer firearm storage among Veterans, service members, and their families.
Intervening when an individual purchases a firearm is critical because their access to lethal means has increased. Access to a gun in the home increases suicide risk, and the gun purchase may be a symptom of suicidal crisis. One research study showed the risk of suicide is elevated immediately after purchasing a firearm and remains elevated for at least 6 years following the purchase. With this in mind, the Gun Shop Project was created.
Developed out of a partnership between the New Hampshire Firearms Safety Coalition, the Means Matter program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and other stakeholders, the Gun Shop Project builds on partnerships between firearms retailers, ranges, and clubs and public health experts. The Gun Shop Project provides retailers, instructors, and customers of all experience levels with firearm suicide prevention educational materials. These include education on the elevated risk of suicide to the gun-owning community and strategies for prevention that allow gun owners to take an active role in suicide prevention among their peers. These are implemented through a variety of pathways, including educational events at shooting ranges, flyers for retail customers, and materials encouraging retailers’ increased awareness of potentially suicidal behavior. Through this effort, an “11th Commandment of Gun Safety” was developed, encouraging temporary offsite storage of firearms when an individual is at elevated suicide risk. The Gun Shop Project has gained significant traction in recent years and is now being replicated across the country.
Gun storage maps have been developed in some states to help community members find local options for temporary, voluntary firearm storage. Temporarily storing firearms out of the home is recommended when someone is at heightened risk for suicide. Before taking any firearms to a safe storage location, always contact the business or law enforcement agency ahead of time. Different locations may have different processes for storage, may charge fees, or impose limits on duration. Each safe storage location will be able to provide further guidance on their protocols.
The following states have created safe storage maps for the public:
In summer 2019, the Colorado School of Public Health, Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research (PIPER), the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine, and the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition developed the first of its kind state gun storage map to share with community members the businesses and law enforcement agencies in Colorado that are willing to consider requests for temporary, voluntary gun storage.
In spring 2020, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health created a Maryland safe storage map to share the businesses and law enforcement agencies in Maryland that are willing to consider requests for temporary, voluntary gun storage.
In February 2020, the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (FIPRP) at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, University of Washington created their own safe storage map to share the businesses and law enforcement agencies in Washington that are willing to consider requests for temporary, voluntary gun storage.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)’s Firearms and Suicide Prevention Poster, Brochure, and “Responding to Suicide: For Ranges and Retailers” guide
California’s Each Mind Matters initiative’s resource guide for Suicide Prevention Gun Shop Activity
Children Hospital of Chicago’s powerpoint slides: Suicide Prevention: Educating Firearm Owners
The Means Matter program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website section dedicated to firearms instructors
Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Utah Concealed Carry training module on firearm suicide prevention
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Firearms and Suicide Prevention
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Project 2025
The American Public Health Association’s policy statement, “Reducing Suicides by Firearms”
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Means Matter program and the Gun Shop Project
Barber C, Frank E, & Demicco R. (2017). Reducing suicides through partnerships between health professionals and gun owner groups-beyond Docs vs Glocks. Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
Runyan CW, Brooks-Russell A, Brandspigel S, Betz M, Tung G, Novins D, & Agans R. (2017). Law enforcement and gun retailers as partners for safely storing guns to prevent suicide: A study in 8 Mountain West states. American Journal of Public Health.
Vriniotis M, Barber C, Frank E, & Demicco R. (2015). A suicide prevention campaign for firearm dealers in New Hampshire. Suicide & Life Threatening Behavior.
Walton T & Stuber J. (2019). Firearm retailers and suicide: results from a survey assessing willingness to engage in prevention efforts. Suicide & Life Threatening Behavior.
Christian Science Monitor’s 2016 video, “The Gun Shop Project: Starting the Conversation on Gun Suicide”
NBC 10 Philadelphia’s 2018 Emmy-Award Winning 45 minute digital documentary, “Preventing Suicide: Breaking the Silence” includes a look at the Gun Shop Project
Vice News 2018 segment on the gun shop project