Healthcare professionals can promote safe firearm storage in a number of ways. Healthcare professionals can counsel patients and their families on access to lethal means, screen patients for firearm injury risk, as well as provide information and materials on safe firearm storage methods. Learn more about the role healthcare professionals can play from the resources below. 

Lethal Means Counseling

Lethal means counseling is a suicide prevention method that involves reducing or preventing access to the most lethal methods of suicide attempt, which can profoundly reduce the risk of an individual in crisis committing harm to themselves or others. Lethal means counseling can also be important in reducing the risk of unintentional injury, especially among children. 

Clinicians are uniquely poised to assist patients and their families.
  • Clinicians are empowered to identify high-risk patients with access to firearms and have the tools to counsel patients and their families on safely storing firearms.
Firearms are the most lethal means for attempting suicide.
Firearm suicide is a leading mechanism for suicide among high-risk groups.
Improper firearm storage is a leading cause of unintentional firearm injury and death. 

Lethal Means Counseling Resources

This free online course from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center focuses on how to reduce access to lethal means. It is primarily designed for mental health professionals and covers how to identify and help patients who could benefit from lethal means counseling.

This resource from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains the importance of reducing a suicidal person’s access to the most lethal means and provides recommendations for clinicians, colleges and universities, communities, and families. 

Counseling on Access to Lethal Means is a free, self-paced, online course for health care and social services providers provided by Zero Suicide, an organization that aims to prevent suicide for individuals under the care of health and behavioral health systems.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shares strategies to promote lethal means safety as well as suicide prevention and safe storage resources, particularly for health professionals caring for veterans.

Lock To Live is a tool developed by the University of Colorado Boulder to help make decisions about the safe storage of harmful objects like firearms, medicine, and sharp objects.

Speaking with Patients about Access to Firearms

Asking patients about access to firearms should be as routine as asking about diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.

Clinicians routinely ask patients about everyday habits and lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, alcohol and tobacco consumption, sexual activity, and more, to ensure the health and safety of patients and their loved ones. However, in these conversations surrounding health and safety, access to firearms rarely comes up. With gun violence increasingly identified as a public health crisis, and with firearm-related suicide as the leading cause of suicide deaths in the United States, it is increasingly important for clinicians to engage their patients about access to firearms, and screen their patients for firearm injury risk.

Click below to learn more about how to start these conversations with patients and ask screening questions to identify if a patient may be at risk for firearm injury.

Screening for Firearm Injury Risk

If a patient has access to firearms and may be at risk for firearm injury, identifying that risk is critical. In this section, clinicians will learn methods for screening patients for firearm violence and injury risk in a variety of contexts, including for suicide, homicide, and domestic violence risk. Clinical approaches to discussing firearm access and injury risk with specific populations, such as minors, the elderly, and veterans, are also explored.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

If you are experiencing a crisis, please text or call 988.

The content of this website is not legal advice and is only intended for general informational purposes. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.