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White House announces new veteran suicide project: gun control and more

A handgun and a gun safe. (Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow/U.S. Air Force)
November 02, 2021

President Joe Biden’s White House on Tuesday released a new strategy aimed at reducing the “public health and national security crisis” of military and veteran suicide. The approach includes gun control messaging through “safe storage” of firearms.

As part of the new approach, the Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the Department of Transportation (DOT), will work to create and implement improved “Lethal Means Safety.”

“This will include designing and launching a campaign to increase the safe storage of firearms and medications, and the use of safety planning interventions by providers,” the White House stated.

The strategy will include a public education campaign with public service announcements, social media and search engine advertising, safety training opportunities, as well as, “Multi-state storage maps to help individuals find where they can safely store firearms outside of their homes.”

The separate White House statement explained that the strategy is also designed to be built upon the Biden administration’s “previous gun violence prevention actions,” including the Justice Department’s guidance on “extreme risk protection” that allow “family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms,” commonly known as “red flag” laws.

“Suicide crises are often brief” and “evidence suggests they can be prevented if the individual in crisis lacks immediate access to the means for self-harm,” the strategy states.

The Biden administration said more than 65,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2010, with the “overwhelming majority of them as the result of a firearm.” The number of suicides also amounts to “more than the total number of deaths from combat during the Vietnam War and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined,” the White House said.

“These women and men volunteered to serve their country, often in dangerous conditions. We owe them, their families, and their fellow service members and veterans a better, more coordinated response to address the military and veteran suicide crisis,” the statement continued.

Additionally, the strategy seeks to improve access to “high-quality crisis care and follow-on support.” The White House emphasized the need for emergency transport, urgent care and emergency department, arguing that they are critical to “stabilizing patients and connecting them to care.”

“Agencies will also expand approaches to help identify service members, veterans and their family members at risk of suicide, enabling early intervention,” the White House said.

The Biden administration is also working to address “upstream risk and protective factors,” including increased financial strain, lack of housing, food insecurity, unemployment, and legal issues. The effort includes “increased emphasis on promoting economic well-being, reducing housing and food insecurity, and supporting service members, veterans, and their families in the transition to civilian life.”