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DC – GUN CONTROL – White House Plan Breaks Taboo: A Focus On Guns And Veteran Suicide

This summer the Trump administration rolled out the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) – a long awaited strategy to bring down the rate of suicide in the military and among civilians. It focuses on enlisting community partners and a public awareness campaign to fight the stigma around seeking help during a mental health crisis. Critics in congress have said the plan isn’t proactive enough. But it does address one issue that has been seen as politically taboo: access to guns. Suicide is notoriously difficult to study since it’s a rare event, even as suicide rates for the military and civilians are on the rise. But if there’s one obvious place to fight veterans’ suicide, it’s firearms. Gun owners are four times more likely to die by suicide. Veterans are almost twice as likely to be gun owners, and one study showed that one in three vets store their guns loaded and unlocked. Guns are by far the deadliest method of suicide. But keeping guns away from veterans has been politically radioactive. “People really haven’t wanted to touch the issue of firearms safety,” said Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND corporation. She says the new White House roadmap was a bit disappointing – it took 15 months to endorse a set of recommendations that aren’t very new. But she is happy that the White House plan mentioned “safe storage” of guns. There had been rumors that the powerful gun-rights lobby would get that section removed from the plan. “Now that we’re wading into that water, it is good to see that we are willing to talk about it and engage partners and do something meaningfully on this issue,” Tanielian said. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been talking about gun safety since at least 2013, sometimes putting free trigger-locks in big bowls in the waiting rooms, like lollipops at the doctor’s office. Still, Dr. Matt Miller, director of VA suicide prevention, doesn’t say politically loaded words like “gun control.” “We’re not talking about broad restrictions. We’re talking about lethal-means safety in the context of suicide prevention,” he said.  [full article]

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