A Pentagon panel has recommended that the military stop selling guns to troops under 25 years old to reduce the number of suicides in the Armed Forces.
The Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), formed in March 2020, has included the suggestion as part of its report to help lower combat suicide levels. The report was released last week.
The report also included a number of additional recommendations for the Pentagon. Among the action items are implementing a seven-day waiting period for firearms purchased on Department of Defense (DoD) property, along with a national database to record serial numbers of firearms purchased on military grounds.
“In this report, the SPRIRC emphasized that effectively preventing and responding to suicide will require a multifactorial approach, as deaths by suicide among service members are complex; thus, simple or singular strategies will not work,” the committee wrote in its executive summary.
The report also recommends that the Defense Department “implement a 4-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on DoD property to follow purchases and receipt of firearms purchased on DoD property.”
The Defense Department also released a statement in response to the panel’s new report that noted the importance of its findings.
“The Department of Defense recognizes that suicide is a complex issue with no single cause or solution but is committed to promoting the well-being, health, and morale of their Total Force and preventing suicide within their ranks,” the statement read.
“The Department is calling on everyone to redouble their commitment to this cause and work together to eliminate suicide within their ranks,” it added.
In October, the DoD released the 2021 annual report on suicide in the military. According to the report, 519 service members died by suicide, with young males noted as the segment at greatest risk.
The number was lower than in 2020 but continued to show a rising level over the past decade. In addition to service members, 202 dependents died by suicide. Firearms were the primary tool used, according to the report.
“Taking care of our people is a top priority of the Secretary of Defense and this report guides the Department as we seek to eliminate suicide across our military community,” said Elizabeth Foster, Executive Director, Office of Force Resiliency, in a statement released about the report. “While it is encouraging to see the active component suicide rate decrease from 2020 to 2021, one such tragedy is too many, and we must redouble our efforts to prevent these deaths.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis, dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.