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Gun Safety

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Gun Safety

Based on 2014 Veteran's Health Administration data, 68% of male and 41% of female Veteran suicides were firearm-related.

Gun safety rules and practice recommendations are intended to avoid accidental or negligent discharge, or the consequences of firearm malfunctions.

Firearms safety rules:

  1. Treat all weapons as if they are always loaded
  2. Never put your finger on or near the trigger of the gun until you are ready to shoot
  3. Never point the muzzle of the gun at anything you don't intend to shoot
  4. Always know your target and be aware of what is directly behind it
  5. Understand the consequences of shooting your firearm unlawfully
  6. Never mix alcohol with firearms; never handle a weapon while intoxicated

Data from, the 2015 National Firearm Survey show that a majority of US Veterans, including gun owners, agree that it is 'at least sometimes' appropriate for clinicians to talk about firearm safety with their patients. (Betz et al. Annals of Intern Med. 2016;165(8))

VA Firearm Safety Lock Brochure

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Start the Conversation

Firearms Conversation

Self-Directed Violence Classification System – Does a Gun Always Make It Serious? - In this scenario, the clinician interviews a Veteran about his plans for a long weekend. The clinician checks in about his plans to go to a firing range and asks about thoughts related to self-directed violence.

Lethal Means Safety Training: This web-based presentation will educate VHA mental health providers on lethal means safety counseling. Participants will learn about the purpose of lethal means safety counseling, including how to work with Veterans and their friends and family to facilitate lethal means safety during high-risk periods. The training emphasizes Veteran autonomy and teaches clinicians to work collaboratively with Veterans towards solutions that align with each Veteran's values and preferences. Following completion of the training, providers will have a better understanding of how to utilize lethal means safety counseling to enhance suicide prevention efforts with the Veterans they serve.

Registration Links:
If you are a VA employee, please access the training via TMS and do a search for Lethal Means Safety Training.
If you are not a VA employee, please access the training via Train.org

Podcast: Promoting Lethal Means Safety to Prevent Veteran Suicide with Joe Simonetti, MD

Firearm Lethal Means Safety with Military Personnel and Veterans: Overcoming Barriers using a Collaborative Approach. Hoyt T, Holliday R, Simonetti JA, Monteith LL. Prof Psychol Res Pr. 2021 Aug;52(4):387-395. doi: 10.1037/pro0000372

Risk of Suicide among U.S. Veterans who Deployed as Part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. Bullman T, Schneiderman A. Inj Epidemiol. 2021 Jun 16;8(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s40621-021-00332-y

Veterans Are Agreeable to Discussions About Firearms Safety in Primary Care. Newell S, Kenyon E, Clark KD, Elliott V, Rynerson A, Gerrity MS, Karras E, Simonetti JA, Dobscha SK. J Am Board Fam Med. 2021 Mar-Apr;34(2):338-345. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2021.02.200261

Nonfatal use of firearms in intimate partner violence: Results of a national survey. Adhia A, Lyons VH, Moe CA, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Rivara FP. Prev Med. 2021 Mar 2:106500. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106500

Characteristics and patterns of older adult homicides in the United States. Shawon RA, Adhia A, DeCou C, Rowhani-Rahbar A. Inj Epidemiol. 2021 Feb 1;8(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s40621-021-00299-w

Strategies for Discussing Firearms Storage Safety in Primary Care: Veteran Perspectives. Dobscha SK, Clark KD, Newell S, Kenyon EA, Karras E, Simonetti JA, Gerrity M. J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Jan 26. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-06412-x

Sexual and Gender Minority Status and Firearms in the Household: Findings From the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Surveys, California and Texas. Blosnich JR, Clark KA, Mays VM, Cochran SD. Public Health Rep. 2020 Nov/Dec;135(6):778-784. doi: 10.1177/0033354920954789 

Firearm Suicide Among Veterans of the U.S. Military: A Systematic Review. Theis J, Hoops K, Booty M, Nestadt P, Crifasi C. Mil Med. 2020 Nov 24:usaa495. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usaa495

Veterans, Firearms, and Suicide: Safe Storage Prevention Policy and the PREVENTS Roadmap. Lemle RB. Fed Pract. 2020 Sep;37(9):426-433. doi: 10.12788/fp.0041

Associations among exaggerated threat perceptions, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors in U.S. firearm owners. Bryan CJ, Bryan AO, Anestis MD. J Psychiatr Res. 2020 Sep 8;131:94-101. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.09.004

Traumatic Brain Injury-Related Deaths From Firearm Suicide: United States, 2008-2017. Miller GF, Kegler SR, Stone DM.Miller GF, et al. Am J Public Health. 2020 Jun;110(6):897-899. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2020.305622. Epub 2020 Apr 16.Am J Public Health. 2020. PMID: 32298184

Factors Associated with U.S. Military Women Keeping Guns or Weapons Nearby for Personal Security Following Deployment. Sadler AG, Mengeling MA, Cook BL, Torner JC. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2020 May 27. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2019.8029. Online ahead of print.J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2020. PMID: 32460621

The Firearm Suicide Crisis: Physicians Can Make a Difference. Goldstein EV, Prater LC, Bose-Brill S, Wickizer TM. Ann Fam Med. 2020 May;18(3):265-268. doi: 10.1370/afm.2522.

Understanding female veterans' experiences and perspectives of firearms. Monteith LL, Holliday R, Dorsey Holliman BA, Brenner LA, Simonetti JA. J Clin Psychol. 2020 Mar 30. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22952. [Epub ahead of print]

Firearm-related experiences and perceptions among United States male veterans: A qualitative interview study. Simonetti JA, Dorsey Holliman B, Holiday R, Brenner LA, Monteith LL. PLoS One. 2020 Mar 10;15(3):e0230135. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230135. eCollection 2020.

Promoting Firearm Safety as a Suicide Prevention Strategy Within Health Care Systems: Challenges and Recommendations. Simonetti JA, Brenner LA. Psychiatr Serv. 2019 Nov 14:appips201900286. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201900286. [Epub ahead of print]

The Association between Firearm Control Policies and Firearm Suicide among Men: A State-Level Age-Stratified Analysis. Leung C, Kaplan MS, Xuan Z. Health Soc Work. 2019 Oct 17;44(4):249-258. doi: 10.1093/hsw/hlz028

Assessment and Management of Patients at Risk for Suicide: Synopsis of the 2019 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense Clinical Practice Guidelines. Sall J, Brenner L, Millikan Bell AM, Colston MJ. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Sep 3;171(5):343-353. doi: 10.7326/M19-0687. Epub 2019 Aug 27

Firearm Storage Practices and Risk Perceptions Among a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Veterans With and Without Self-Harm Risk Factors. Simonetti JA, Azrael D, Miller M. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2019 Jun;49(3):653-664. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12463. Epub 2018 Apr 15

Acceptability of potential interventions to increase firearm safety among patients in VA mental health treatment. Valenstein M, Walters H, Pfeiffer PN, Ganoczy D, Miller M, Fiorillo M, Bossarte RM.
Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2018 Nov - Dec;55:77-83. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2018.10.010. Epub 2018 Nov 3.

Firearm Storage Practices Among American Veterans. Simonetti JA, Azrael D, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Miller M. Am J Prev Med. 2018 Oct;55(4):445-454. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.04.014. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Informing Federal Policy on Firearm Restrictions for Veterans with Fiduciaries: Risk Indicators in the Post-Deployment Mental Health Study. Swanson J, Easter M, Brancu M; VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC Workgroup, Fairbank JA. Adm Policy Ment Health. 2018 Jul;45(4):673-683. doi: 10.1007/s10488-018-0881-y.

Formal firearm training among adults in the USA: results of a national survey. Rowhani-Rahbar A, Lyons VH, Simonetti JA, Azrael D, Miller M. Inj Prev. 2018 Apr;24(2):161-165. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2017-042352. Epub 2017 Jul 11

Firearm ownership among American veterans: findings from the 2015 National Firearm Survey. Cleveland EC, Azrael D, Simonetti JA, Miller M. Inj Epidemiol. 2017 Dec 19;4(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s40621-017-0130-y.

Firearm Ownership Among Military Veterans With PTSD: A Profile of Demographic and Psychosocial Correlates. Heinz AJ, Cohen NL, Holleran L, Alvarez JA, Bonn-Miller MO. Mil Med. 2016 Oct;181(10):1207-1211.

Firearm safety in the home. The role of health care providers. Cohen SM. Adv Nurse Pract. 2005 Jul;13(7):61-2. Review. No abstract available.

The intersection of PTSD symptoms and firearm storage practices within a suicide prevention framework: Findings from a U.S. Army National Guard sample. Stanley IH, Anestis MD. Psychol Serv. 2020 Jan 9. doi: 10.1037/ser0000410. [Epub ahead of print]

Reducing Firearm & Other Household Safety Risks for Veterans and Their Families: This brochure provides clear guidance on how to responsibly store firearms and medication. 

Means Safety Messaging for Clinical Staff: This pocket card provides short, digestible information for clinicians about how to talk with Veteran patients about lethal means. This guide is a must-have for anyone who works with Veteran in a healthcare setting.

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Find a Suicide Prevention Coordinator Near YouLocate Information and Resources: No matter what you are experiencing, there is support for getting your life on a better track.

Firearms & Domestic Violence: Resources from the National Domestic Violence Hotline
Consultation regarding Lethal Means Safety and Lethal Means Safety Counseling is available at any time to any provider serving a Veteran at risk for suicide.

Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program: The Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program offers free consultation to any provider (community or VA) who works with Veterans at risk for suicide. For more information, please go to: www.mirecc.va.gov/visn19/consult/ or place a consult by emailing srmconsult@va.gov

Means MatterSuicide, Guns, and Public Health: Most efforts to prevent suicide focus on why people take their lives. But as we understand more about who attempts suicide and when and where and why, it becomes increasingly clear that how a person attempts–the means they use–plays a key role in whether they live or die.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255
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En Español - 1-888-628-9454
Deaf, Hard of Hearing - TTY dial 800-799-4889 Chat

Veterans Crisis Line
1-800-273-8255 Press 1
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Text to 838255
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Make the ConnectionConnecting Veterans with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives.

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For more information on Veteran Safety contact Michal Wilson, MD @ Michal.Wilson@va.gov

External Link Disclaimer: This page contains links that will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.

*To search the entire VA.gov site, please use the search bar in the upper right corner of the webpage