Because firearms are the most lethal among suicide methods, it is particularly important that you remove them until things improve at home, or, second best, lock them very securely. Storing firearms with someone you trust is a comfortable and cost-free option for many people. Rules depend on your state.
Lock and Talk follows the suicide prevention firearm safety guidelines for families put forth by the Harvard School of Public Health, Means Matter Campaign:
- First, call your local police department, sheriff, or state police.
- Identify yourself and explain your concern.
- Ask for the Officer on Duty; write down his/her name and the department’s name.
- Arrange with the officer a time and location for him/her to pick up the firearms, if they offer that service.
- Do not bring the firearms to the police department unless told to by the Officer on Duty.
Do the firearms need to be ready to go in a certain way?
- If you know how to safely unload the firearms, unload it.
- If you do not know how to unload the firearms, tell the Officer before he/she arrives to pick it up.
- If the Officer asks you to bring the firearms to the police station, name who will bring it, what the person looks like, and the time the person will arrive.
Know who is prohibited from “holding on to guns”
Under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(d), no person may purchase or possess a firearm if they fall into the following categories, nor may any person knowingly sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a firearm to any person falling into these categories:
- Is under indictment for or has been convicted in any court of a felony;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance (drug user);
- Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
- Is an illegal alien;
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
- Has renounced his or her citizenship;
- Is subject to a court order issued after a hearing which restrains him or her from intimate partner violence; or
- Has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense.
Know the terms:
- Brandish: Aiming a gun at others or waving the gun in a threatening way.
- Carry/Possess: To have a gun on your person.
- Transport: Taking a gun and/or ammunition from one point to another.
- Own: You may still own firearms if the federal law restricts you from only purchasing or possessing (carrying) a firearm.
Live in Virginia?
Know the two terms:
- Open Carry: Open Carry of a handgun without a permit is legal in Virginia at age 18, withstanding other applicable laws.
- Concealed Carry: Concealed Carry of a handgun is allowed for persons who hold a valid CHP (concealed handgun permit), comply with certain restrictions, or who hold certain positions (must be 21).
- Extreme Risk Protective Order - scroll to bottom for information about minors and access to firearms (in effect July 1, 2020)
- Virginia laws at: www.law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode
Alcohol can both increase the chance that a person makes an unwise choice, like attempting suicide, and increase the lethality of a drug overdose. Keeping only small quantities at home is best. If you have alcohol stored in a liquor cabinet, lock it.
Talk with your doctor about your medications.
Confirm with your doctor that the dose and quantity of your medication, and the medications of your children, is the lowest safe and effective dose possible.
Properly secure and monitor your medications
Use a locked cabinet or a medication locking box. Do not keep combinations where they can be easily found.
Safely and properly dispose of old, expired or unused medications
Prevent your child, friend or loved one from abusing your medications by disposing of them through a permanent drop box in your community or by mixing them with an inedible substance such as kitty litter or coffee grounds and tossing them into the trash. NEVER flush your medications down the drain or toilet, unless the label says it is safe to do so.
Educate yourself and your family
Learn about the most commonly abused types of prescription medications and the associated signs and symptoms of overdose or misuse. Then, communicate the dangers to your child, friends or loved ones regularly; once is not enough. Make time to talk and create an environment where your child, friend or loved one feels safe to talk to you about questions and concerns they have about drugs.
Other Lethal Means and Prevention of Suicide
Hanging and suffocation suicide deaths are ranked second nationally. Do not leave someone in an emotional crisis alone. Make sure to remove items which may be obvious to use for hanging, such as heavier ropes or sturdy cords. Make sure items are secured both inside and outside the home, such as in outbuildings.
Consider securing access to high rooftops. Lock chemistry labs, remove or lock poisonous household or auto chemicals. On a community level, prevention specialists may work with Virginia Department of Transportation and National Park Service to install signs with local crisis contact numbers on bridges or other areas identified locally as “hot spots” for suicide.