President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new military and veteran suicide prevention strategy that includes promoting safe firearms storage and outlining best practices for firearm dealers.
The plan includes a new federal focus on improving lethal means safety, which is a voluntary practice to reduce one’s suicide risk by limiting access to objects that can be used to cause self-harm, including medications, firearms or sharp instruments.
The Department of Justice will soon finalize a rule clarifying the obligations firearm dealers have to make secure gun storage or safety devices available for purchase, the White House says.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will also issue a best practices guide to all federal firearm dealers to remind them about steps they are legally required to take to keep customers and communities safe, as well as additional steps they are encouraged to take.
“In an average day, 17 veterans die by suicide — not in a far-off place, but right here at home. Two service members die by suicide every day of the year. They’re our daughters. Our sons. Parents. Spouses. Siblings. Beloved friends and battle buddies,” Biden writes in the report.
The President continued: “Each of these precious lives leaves behind loved ones who feel their absence every single day, like a black hole in the middle of their chests.”
The new comprehensive strategy announced on Tuesday is meant to build on the Biden administration’s previous gun violence prevention actions. Earlier this year, Biden directed the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” laws for states that allow the temporary removal of guns from people deemed at high risk of harming themselves or others.
Biden has said he wants to see a national “red flag” law passed by Congress as well as legislation to incentivize states to enact their own “red flag” laws.
As part of the new strategy, the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the Department of Transportation, will jointly create a plan to address lethal means safety awareness, education, training and program evaluation, the White House said.
The campaign will include public service announcements, paid media, social media, storage maps to help individuals find where they can safely store firearms outside of their homes and lethal means safety training opportunities for non-medical counselors, crisis responders, health care professionals, family members and others.
The best practices guide the ATF will issue to all federal firearm dealers will include materials to distribute to customers to help them better understand their legal obligations as firearms owners, a summary of the Department of Justice’s zero-tolerance approach to willful violations of the Gun Control Act, a reminder of the obligation to run background checks for firearm transfers and recommendations on how to implement safety and security measures to secure firearm inventory, the White House says.
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