Individual

Individual

The individual level focuses on how biological and personal history factors affect a person’s suicide risk. Prevention efforts at this level address those factors, typically through education. Access to firearms is a critical personal history factor and interventions at this level educate people about why it is important to separate oneself from lethal means, often through safer storage practices.

Safely storing and limiting access to firearms for the gun owner and other individuals in the home is a suicide prevention strategy supported by researchers, healthcare professionals, and gun owners alike.

Safer Storage

Storage in the home

If a person chooses to store their firearm in the home, it is important to always practice safer firearm storage. For at-home firearm storage, it is widely recommended to store firearms locked and unloaded, store and lock ammunition separately from firearms, and ensure the key or lock combination is inaccessible to the person at risk of suicide. The following chart provides different examples of at-home firearm storage options:

Storage Option Description Notes Price
Cable lock A device that blocks the chamber to prevent a firearm cartridge from being fired. It requires either a key or a combination to unlock and is usable on most firearms. Cable locks must be installed according to directions and not around trigger. Always keep the key or combination away from at-risk individuals. Cable locks can be cut. Free to $50
Trigger lock A two-piece lock that fits over the trigger guard, thus blocking the trigger, but it does not prevent loading. It requires a key or combination to unlock. Trigger locks should never be used on a loaded gun because the gun could still fire. They are not usable on lever-action guns. Always keep the key or combination away from at-risk individuals. $5–$50
Lock box A small safe designed to store a handgun that requires a key, combination, keypad, or biometrics to unlock. Firearm can be stored loaded or unloaded in a lock box. Lock boxes can be stolen, but they can be more difficult to steal if they are permanently mounted. In electronic versions, batteries must be replaced. Always keep the key or combination away from at-risk individuals. $25–$350
Safe Designed to store long guns, handguns, or other valuables. It requires a key, combination, or biometrics to unlock. A safe is the most secure option for multiple guns, especially long guns. Always keep the key or combination away from at-risk individuals. $100–$2,500
Disassembly of gun Requires gun knowledge and ensures the gun cannot be fired. Disassembling a gun is not always practical. It is possible to lose parts and may not be appealing to some individuals. $0
Personalized “smart” guns A safety device permanently installed on a gun by the maker or owner to ensure that only authorized users can fire the gun. Various technologies exist. Smart guns do not protect against misuse by the authorized user. They also cannot be retrofitted. Varies
 

Storage outside the home

Storing firearms outside of the home is the safest option when a person is at increased risk of suicide. People may choose to voluntarily give their firearms to friends or family members, a federally licensed firearms dealer, or a local police department when they know they are at risk for harming themselves. State laws may limit the persons to whom a firearm can be legally transferred for temporary safer storage, so it is important to check state and local law to ensure the temporary transfer is permissible.

 

Deciding which options are best for you

There are a lot of options for safer firearms storage, overviewed above. Lock to Live is a firearm storage decision aid designed to help navigate these choices. Created by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, this practical, confidential tool can help you determine the best options to keep you and your loved ones safe.

 

Adapted from:
Wintemute GJ, Betz ME, & Ranney ML. (2016). Yes, you can: Physicians, patients, and firearms. Annals of Internal Medicine.
National Crime Prevention Council
Seattle and King County Department of Public Health

 

Resources

Educational Materials

American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Safe Storage of Firearms” handout

The ATF’s guide to what qualifies as a secure gun storage or safety device

American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma’s “Gun Safety and Your Health” brochure

Bullet Points Project’s resources on safe storage

Defense Suicide Prevention Office’s handout Firearm Safe Storage

Everytown for Gun Safety’s “Unload, Lock, and Separate: Secure Storage Practices to Reduce Gun Violence handout

Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens (FACTS) Consortium’s “Safe Storage” video

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and Massachusetts Medical Society’s “Gun Safety and Your Health” guide

National Shooting Sports Foundation’s suicide prevention resources for individuals, including options for storing firearms safely

Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Veteran Suicide Prevention’s “Firearm Safety Matters” presentation

Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention’s “Firearm Storage” infographic on Veterans’ firearm locking device preferences

Safe Kids Worldwide’s gun safety tips

Seattle and King County Department of Public Health’s “Lock-It-Up” brochure

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Firearm Safety Lock Brochure

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)’s Safe Firearm Storage Toolkit

University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center’s “Parent’s Guide to Home Firearm Safety” brochure

The Veterans Crisis Line’s Firearm Safety Video highlights the importance of safer storage practices

What You Can Do Initiative’s patient handout about the risk of firearms in the home and the importance of safer storage

Initiatives

The ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ campaign encourages parents to ask if there is an unlocked gun in the homes where their children play.

End Family Fire

The Ad Council’s gun safety campaign, sponsored by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, encourages people to learn about proper gun safety and responsible ownership and to make their homes safer when it comes to the storage and handling of their guns.

Lock-It-Up

Seattle and King County Department of Public Health’s Lock-It-Up initiative promotes safer firearm storage.

Lock to Live

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’s tool that helps people make decisions about temporarily reducing access to potentially dangerous thing, such as firearms.

Project Child Safe

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s program to promote firearms safety and education.

Safe Firearm Storage

The National Crime Prevention Council and the Advertising Council’s public education campaign encourages firearm owners to store firearms safely.

Safe Firearm Storage Toolkit

A partnership between U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) aims to guide communities through building coalitions to raise awareness about safe storage practices for suicide prevention.

Safer Homes, Suicide Aware

The Forefront Suicide Prevention and the Second Amendment Foundation’s public health campaign to help the public learn practical skills that will help change public behavior on locking and limiting unauthorized access to firearms and medications in order to prevent suicide.

Research

Albright TL & Burge SK. (2003). Improving firearm storage habits: Impact of brief office counseling by family physicians. Journal of the American Board of Family Practice.

Beidas RS, Jager-Hyman S, Becker-Haimes EM, Wolk CB, Ahmedani BK, Zeber JE, Fein JA, Brown GK, Gregor CA, Lieberman A, & Marcus SC. (2019). Acceptability and Use of Evidence-Based Practices for Firearm Storage in Pediatric Primary Care. Academic Pediatrics.

Beidas RS, Rivara F, & Rowhani-Rahbar A. (2020). Safe Firearm Storage: A Call for Research Informed by Firearm Stakeholders. Pediatrics.

Bryan  CJ, Bryan AO, Anestis MD, et al. (2019). Firearm availability and storage practices among military personnel who have thought about suicide. Journal of American Medicine.

Crifasi CK, Doucette ML, McGinty EE, Webster DW, & Barry CL. (2018). Storage practices of US gun owners in 2016. American Journal of Public Health.

Dempsey CL, Benedek DM, Zuromski KL, et al. (2019). Association of firearm ownership, use, accessibility, and storage practices with suicide risk among US army soldiers. Journal of American Medicine.

Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, Dowd MD, Villaveces A, Prodzinski J, et al. (2005). Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. Journal of American Medical Association.

Lemle RB. (2020). Veterans, Firearms, and Suicide: Safe Storage Prevention Policy and the PREVENTS Roadmap. Federal Practitioner.

McCourt AD, Vernick JS, Betz ME, Brandspigel S, & Runyan CW. (2017). Temporary Transfer of Firearms From the Home to Prevent Suicide: Legal Obstacles and Recommendations. JAMA Internal Medicine.

Okoro CA, Nelson DE, Mercy JA, Balluz LS, Crosby AE, & Mokdad AH. (2005). Prevalence of household firearms and firearm-storage practices in the 50 states and the District of Columbia: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002. Pediatrics.

Rowhani-Rahbar A, Simonetti JA, & Rivara FP. (2016). Effectiveness of interventions to promote safe firearm storage. Epidemiologic Reviews.

Scott J, Azrael D, & Miller M. (2018). Firearm storage in homes with children with self-harm risk factors. Pediatrics.

Shenassa  ED, Rogers ML, Spalding KL, & Roberts MB. (2004). Safer storage of firearms at home and risk of suicide: a study of protective factors in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Sidman EA, Grossman DC, Koepsell TD, D’Ambrosio L, Britt J, Simpson ES, Rivara FP, & Bergman AB. (2005). Evaluation of a community-based handgun safe-storage campaign. Pediatrics.

Other Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics’ Guns in the Home resource page

American Public Health Association’s policy statement on reducing suicides by firearms including recommendations on temporarily storing firearms outside the home and safer storage

California Department of Justice’s roster of Cal DOJ-approved firearm safety devices

Giffords Law Center’s Safe Storage Laws resource page

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Lethal Means Stakeholder Group’s report Lethal Means & Suicide Prevention: A Guide for Community & Industry Leaders

RAND’s analysis of education campaigns and clinical interventions for promoting safer storage

Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)’s Reduce Access to Means of Suicide resource page

U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Gun Safety resource page

This page was last updated April 2021.