U.S. to Launch Effort to Combat Suicide By Gun, Including New Regulations for Sellers

The Biden administration is expected to announce a new initiative Tuesday to help curb suicide deaths by gun and a rise in suicides among military members and veterans, the Associated Press reported.

The plan would look to improve awareness and training for responders while imposing new regulations to increase the availability of gun storage products.

Guns were the most common method used in suicide deaths in 2019, with federal health statistics showing that they accounted for almost 24,000, or a little more than half of all deaths in the year. Many people who do take their lives using firearms usually have fast access to guns, either by owning them themselves or because family members own them, AP reported.

The U.S. plan would mobilize federal agencies like the Defense Department, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs to produce campaigns aimed at boosting public awareness, safer gun storage and training for counselors and other responders.

The initiative would also have the Justice Department put in place a regulation first proposed years ago that would mandate any stores that sell guns to also give access to devices that would allow for the safe storage of firearms, according to the White House.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Biden Administration Initiative
The Biden administration is expected to announce a new initiative Tuesday to help curb suicide deaths by gun and a rise in suicides among military members and veterans. Above, President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the Executive Office Building on September 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

As part of the plan, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will distribute a guide for firearms dealers that spells out both safety steps that are required under the law and additional steps the federal government recommends. The guide will also detail the Justice Department's focus on prosecuting gun crimes and violations of federal firearms laws.

The administration said ATF would also "seek to revoke the licenses of dealers the first time that they violate federal law," with limited exceptions for "extraordinary circumstances." Those violations would include selling guns to someone who can't legally own them, failing to run a background check, falsifying federal records or refusing to cooperate in required ATF inspections.

The federal government will also create maps to help people find places to safely store guns outside of their homes, officials said. Officials will also expand efforts within the Department of Veterans Affairs focused on suicide prevention and safety planning, along with training for family members of people who could be at higher risk for suicide, administration officials said.

The Department of Defense's annual calendar year suicide report released in September showed that 580 military personnel, including 384 active duty service members, died by suicide in 2020. The suicide rate among active duty service members has statistically increased since 2015, the report said. There's been no statistical change for reservists and National Guard members during the same timeframe, according to the report.

Many firearms dealers have already been stepping up suicide prevention efforts as the number of gun sales in the U.S. rose to a historic high in January, continuing a surge that began as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020. Some firearms dealers have also started handing out or offering cards with the phone number of suicide prevention hotlines and tips to identify signs of depression or other mental health issues.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours every day.