NSSF Taking Steps to Prevent Veteran Suicide

NSSF President Joe Bartozzi says the organization is committed to helping prevent suicide among our nation's military veterans.

NSSF Taking Steps to Prevent Veteran Suicide

One of the industry initiatives that may not get enough attention is our efforts to prevent suicide by firearm. As many know, NSSF has partnered the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to lend our expertise to this complex issue. As nearly two thirds of all firearm deaths are from suicide, we are taking on this challenge to help educate our members on how to prevent these deaths. We have recently expanded our efforts to work with the veteran community.

The NSSF recently attended and participated in the VA / DoD Suicide Prevention Conference, held in Nashville at the city’s Convention Center. Since last November, NSSF began working with the Veterans Administration to develop a suicide prevention program that will empower communities to engage in safe firearm-storage practices. This program includes information to help communities create coalitions around promoting and sustaining firearm safety with an emphasis on service members, veterans and their families.  In addition to participating in a panel discussion at the Conference, NSSF also distributed its suicide prevention education materials to attendees.

This program is currently getting started in seven test locations around the country—Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C. The VA-specific toolkit is still in development but will contain some of the already-created AFSP – NSSF materials, as well as NSSF firearm safety materials such as our safe storage infographic.  

The NSSF is proud to be partnering with the VA and DoD, particularly as our industry has strong ties to the military and is dedicated to playing a role in helping to reduce suicide by firearm among veterans. Many mental health professionals and military personnel at the conference expressed their appreciation for our industry being part of the solution to help reduce the rate of suicide by firearm among veterans and active service members.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie cited the potential of the VA-NSSF-AFSP program to save lives in his keynote speech to conference attendees.

“…You can help us. You can help us make sure that everyone in the public knows about VCL [Veterans Crisis Line]," Wilkie said. "You can contribute to the awareness campaign about mental health resources and suicide prevention resources in your state and local government. You can promote safe storage of firearms, something VA is already working on with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. And you can help us talk about hope and the importance of speaking about mental health.”
NSSF’s goals with these efforts are to help educate the firearms owning community, including veterans and active servicemen and women, along with firearms retailer and range staff, about suicide and prevention, and contribute to the overall discussion of suicide prevention with national, state and regional mental health groups.

— Joe Bartozzi is president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Conn.


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