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White House Announces Unprecedented Action to Prevent Firearm Suicide


On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a comprehensive suite of new executive actions and a robust Military and Veteran Suicide Prevention Strategy to prevent firearm suicide and promote lethal means safety. Firearm suicide is a significant public health crisis in the United States, claiming the lives of 23,000 Americans every year, including nearly 3,000 young people and 4,400 veterans.1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2014-2018. Young people defined as ages 10-24. Over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate in the United States has increased 13 percent.2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A percent change was developed using 2010 to 2019 age-adjusted rates for all ages. This trend is of particular concern among military veterans, who have a firearm suicide rate one and a half times higher than nonveteran adults.3US Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. 2019 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report. September 2019.

But suicide can be prevented. Removing access to firearms, a particularly lethal means, is the easiest and quickest intervention. Policies and practices that limit or disrupt access to firearms, such as those set forth in the White House’s announcement, have been shown to save lives. With the announcement, the Biden-Harris Administration committed to taking action on gun suicide, with emphasis on:

Promoting safe storage and reducing access to lethal means

  • Launching a public education campaign on lethal means safety to encourage safe firearm storage practices, safety planning, and time and space behavioral measures for crisis response
  • Developing and expanding lethal means safety training for natural helpers within the government and in communities
  • Assessing firearm storage options, improving access to temporary out-of-home firearm storage, and developing multi-state gun storage maps
  • Developing toolkits to amplify safe storage campaign calls to action
  • Making it easier for gun owners to obtain safe storage devices

Expanding and improving suicide prevention services

  • Improving crisis services, including through the implementation of 988, the Veteran Crisis Line, and other suicide prevention crisis lines
  • Increasing access to effective mental health care for military services members, veterans, and their family members
  • Assessing and reducing risk factors for suicide and strengthening protective factors at the individual, relationship, and community level 

Promoting best practices for firearms dealers

  • Ensuring firearms dealers are following best practices to keep their customers and communities safe
  • Developing education materials on safe storage practices for dealers to distribute to customers

Several executive agencies will be involved in implementing the actions outlined in the announcement, including the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Homeland Security. 

The White House’s announcement builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the nation’s gun violence crisis, including its previously announced executive actions on ghost guns, community violence intervention funding, red flag laws, firearms trafficking, and arm-brace regulation. 

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