We know that if we can give people hope and keep them from taking their lives in the moments of worst despair, we can change the course of that life. The VERMONT GUN SHOP PROJECT – is an initiative that brings people with the common goal of reducing deaths by suicide by gunshot together to take meaningful steps to save lives. The VT Gun Shop Project is a statewide suicide awareness and prevention partnership between the VT Department of Mental Health (DMH); the VT Suicide Prevention Center (VT-SPC), a program of the Center for Health and Learning (CHL), the VT Suicide Prevention Coalition (VT Coalition) and leading organizations in the firearm owners’ community, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen Clubs, Inc., (VFSC) and Gun Owners of Vermont (GOV). The VT Gun Shop Project promotes awareness of suicide deaths by firearm in Vermont and offers prevention strategies. Posters and tip sheets designed by gun owners emphasize the importance of knowing risk factors and warning signs of suicide, talking about depression and suicide openly, and helping friends and family in need to stay safe, offering to hold firearms for those who may be suicidal. Wallet cards for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offer immediate support and resources. The goal of distributing materials to gun shops and ranges is to reach out with a personal appeal: ask for help if you are depressed and support each other through hard times by asking about suicide, listening without judgement, offering to hold firearms, and encouraging family or friends to get help if needed.
In 2015 the Vermont State Legislature wrote into S.141 a mandate that the Department of Mental Health and representatives of Vermont’s gun owning community work together with the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center on a Vermont Gun Shop Project, formalizing the start of this suicide prevention initiative.
Vermont Public Radio (VPR) has done vigorous and extensive research analyzing gun deaths in Vermont, the lion share which are attributable to suicides, and published it in this well done series.
From a public health perspective, addressing guns as a lethal means requires finding ways through partnerships, policies and programs to educate people about the need to restrict access, or keep guns out of the hands of people, who may use them to hurt themselves or others. VTSPC seeks to educate the public and professionals about these issues and create partnerships such as the Gun Shop Project.