An Unusual Alliance to Curb Gun Suicides

September 16, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Christian Science Monitor

In an attempt to curb high rates of firearm suicide, gun rights advocates and mental health experts across the U.S. are collaborating on prevention efforts. Following a spate of suicide deaths in New Hampshire, a coalition of local gun shop owners and public health practitioners formed the Gun Shop Project, distributing materials about firearms safety and suicide prevention awareness to gun shops and ranges statewide. Those involved in the project worked to mitigate the polarity that normally characterizes issues related to firearms and find common ground on harm reduction. According to Catherine Barber, a suicide prevention researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “If you want to reach gun owners, it doesn’t make sense to go at them with an antigun agenda. It makes more sense to work within the culture of gun-owning groups.” Ralph Demicco, a former firearms retailer who helped found the project, said, “Everybody agrees that suicide is harmful to the individual and the family, and you can’t say ‘no’ to that. It’s obvious. Everyone agrees that if someone is under stress you don’t want to be selling them a gun.” The effects of these efforts so far appear to be modest; however, collaboration around the issue of firearm suicide has begun to ripple across the country. The New Hampshire model has been taken up in 20 other states, including Maryland, Tennessee, Nevada, and Utah.

Spark Extra! Watch this SPARK Talk to learn more about the New Hampshire Gun Shop Project.