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Tom Chiodo

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According to the 2023 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 6,392 Veterans died by suicide in 2021, reflecting an increase of 11.6% over the previous year. The report reveals Veteran suicide deaths continue to disproportionately involve firearms, with firearms used in 72.2% of Veteran suicides, compared with 52.2% for non-Veterans. Alarmingly, firearm suicide rates for Veteran women were 281.1% higher than civilian women in 2021.

Multiple factors and events can heighten the risk of suicidal behavior among Veterans; however, during periods of increased suicide risk, access to lethal means significantly raises the chances of a fatal outcome from suicidal actions. In 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration identified lethal means safety, including secure storage of firearms and medications, as their Priority Goal #1 for reducing Veteran and service member suicide. Veterans are more likely to own a firearm compared with civilians; the VA reports that nearly half of all Veterans own one or more firearms. Even though many Veterans are experienced with firearms due to their military training, 1 in 3 Veteran firearm owners do not follow the firearm industry’s recommendations for securely storing firearms in the home. Although removing firearms from the home is ideal for those at risk of suicide, practicing responsible firearm and ammunition storage serves as a crucial alternative measure in preventing suicide among US Veterans.

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