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Study Targets Suicide Risk Among Gun Owners On Active Duty

Spc. Johnathan Ramirez with the Special Troops Battalion, 300th Sustainment B...

Photo by Capt. Jerry Duong / U.S. Army Reserve

Above: Spc. Johnathan Ramirez with the Special Troops Battalion, 300th Sustainment Brigade, writes down risk factors that will increase the chances of suicide during in the Army Ask - Care - Escort (ACE) Suicide Intervention training at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Feb. 8, 2019.

New research looks at how the practices of those who own personal weapons in the military may impact the suicide rate among troops on active duty.

Troops who have contemplated suicide, and who own a personal firearm, are much less likely to store them safely than troops who haven't expressed suicidal thoughts, according to Craig Bryan, executive director with the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah, which lead the study.

“We need to realize there is a relationship between the method and the outcome," he said. "In that, we’re going to have to be more creative in how we approach suicide prevention. I think downrange, or further down the road, what we’re probably going to find is we need to have conversations about safe storage practices.”

Suicide Prevention Resources:

San Diego Crisis Line: (888) 724-7240

Crisis Text Line: 741-741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (veterans and military personnel press 1)

Warning signs and what to do

The Naval Health Research Center in San Diego provided access to the 1,652 troops surveyed for the study. Among those in the military, guns are involved in more than 60 percent of suicides. Despite access to military weapons, 95% of sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines use a personal firearm to kill themselves.

“The military has a lot of options that many of us who are outside the military don’t have," Bryan said. "So, many military installations have a requirement that if a service member is living on base that they store the weapon in an armory, which is a fantastic strategy.”

Commanders can also require the discussion of gun safety, encourage the use of trigger locks or emphasize the need to store ammunition away from the gun. Short delays can give someone time to reconsider, he said.

At the moment, the Pentagon doesn’t have a consistent policy throughout the service. The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Network Open site.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.


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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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