How to Prevent Suicide Through Firearms Storage

Introduction to Firearms Storage and Suicide Prevention

If you own a firearm, it’s critical that you understand the need for safe storage of your firearms when not in use. This simple act can reduce the rate of suicide and save lives. By educating firearms owners about suicide prevention there is the potential to save more than 9,000 lives by 2025, reports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Learning about suicide risk, safe storage and removing access to lethal means (including firearms) when someone is at risk, can reduce the rate of suicide and save lives.

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and conditions such as depression, anxiety and substance use problems – especially when unaddressed – increase the risk of suicide.

Recuse the Risk of Suicide

Temporarily removing lethal means from someone in suicidal crisis greatly reduces the likelihood of that person dying by suicide, because it gives at-risk individuals something they crucially need: time.

AFSP research shows that most people in suicidal crisis who don’t have easy access to a lethal suicide method will not simply find another way to kill themselves.  Removing access to firearms and other lethal means allows time for both the moment of intense suicidal crisis to pass, and for someone to intervene with potentially lifesaving mental health support and resources.

AFSP also endorses suicide prevention education as a basic tenet of firearm safety and responsible gun ownership. From, There are simple actions we can all take to help save lives including: practicing safe storage and the temporary removal of access to firearms when someone is at risk; and learning about common risk factors and warning signs for suicide.

person crying for help

There are a range of options for safely storing and protecting your firearms when they are not in use.  Go to: NSSF to help you choose firearms storage that fits your lifestyle.

Suicide is a major public health issue, and remains (per CDC & AFS) the 12th leading cause of death. In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide.   On average, this is 130 people per day. In 2020, there were an estimated 1.20 million suicide attempts.  Firearms accounted for 52.83% of all suicide deaths. 

Get Help, you are not alone

What leads to suicide?

While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase the likelihood of an attempt.

Learning about them can save lives.  Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create the feeling of hopelessness and despair.  Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and is often undiagnosed or untreated.  Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide.  It’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.

Risk factors may be health related, such as mental health conditions like depression, substance use problems, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality traits of aggression, mood changes, poor relationships or anxiety disorders.  Health related risk factors could also stem from serious physical health conditions including pain or traumatic brain injury.

There may be environmental risks factors that would include:  access to lethal means including firearms and drugs. Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment could increase risk factors.  Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, or other life transitions or loss may trigger thoughts of suicide.  Even exposure to another person’s suicide or sensationalized accounts of suicide is a risk factor.  Historical risk factors would include previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, childhood abuse, neglect or trauma.

It is important to remember, firearms accounted for 52.83% of all suicide deaths.  Safely storing your firearms is a simple yet very effective way to help reduce suicide.

There are warning signs that signal that a person may be suicidal.  Watch for a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors, especially if the changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change.  A person may talk about harming themselves.  They may feel hopeless or feel that they have no reason to live.  A person may speak of unbearable pain or feel that they are a burden to others or just feel trapped.

Someone who is having suicidal thoughts may exhibit behavior that signals they may be at risk, especially if it’s related to a painful event, loss or change.  Some of those behaviors may be: increased use of alcohol or drugs.  They may start looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online.  Someone may withdraw from activities or isolate themselves from family and friends.  Sleep patterns may change, either sleep too much or too little.  If you notice that someone starts to giveaway prized possessions or calls or visits to say goodbye – they may be at risk for suicide. 

Another warning sign is mood.  Depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation/shame, agitation/anger, or relief/sudden improvement of mood may indicate a person is at risk.

Reaching Out Is The First Step to Safety

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned about someone, there are crisis services available.

For immediate need – simply dial 988 or text  TALK to 741741

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.  Find more information about the Lifeline at:

Veterans Crisis Line:  800-2773-8255 and press 1 – will connect you with caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Many of them are Veterans themselves. Visit for more information.

Crisis Text Line – Text from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.  Text TALK to 741741 or go to for more information.

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