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Robert Longley

Military Suicides and Personally Owned Guns

By November 2, 2012

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Soldiers and guns have always gone together. But with the number of military suicides continuing to rise, the Department of Defense (DOD) noticed that almost half of them are carried out with privately owned firearms.

While all branches of the military have suicide prevention programs, the RAND Corporation, in its report The War Within: Preventing Military Suicides, points out that most of them are focus mainly on increasing suicide awareness and identifying service members considered to be most at-risk of suicide. However, the programs lack any mechanism for separating those at-risk service members from their personal firearms.

Most military bases do have policies relating to personally owned firearms developed under the DOD's Physical Security of Sensitive Conventional Arms, Ammunition, and Explosives directives. However, these policies mainly provide for the registration and inventory of privately-owned firearms possessed on-base. Again, the directives typically provide no means of limiting the access of potentially suicidal service members to their person firearms.

In its report, the RAND Corporation recommends the DOD develop and implement a unified suicide prevention and response program that would include the authority to restrict access to "lethal means," including personally-owned firearms. "Evidence consistently shows that means restriction relates to lower suicide rates," notes the report. "This includes not only restricting access to firearms but also attending to the way potentially lethal medications are packaged and how door hinges and shower rods are constructed."

"Since firearms are the most common method of suicide in the military, a focus on firearm safety is an important part of any military suicide prevention strategy," said Lisa Jaycox, RAND senior behavioral scientist in a press release. "We recognize the seemingly contradictory nature of this policy within the military, but the importance of suicide prevention and preponderance of evidence supporting lethal means reductions suggests that these strategies should warrant serious attention."

On October 7, James Dao writing in the New York Times, quoted Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the DOD's assistant secretary of defense for health affairs as stating that DOD officials were indeed working on a military suicide prevention program that will "encourage" families and friends of at-risk service members to "voluntarily" remove personally owned firearms from the service members' homes.

According to Dao, the voluntary nature of the program could be the DOD's way of placating gun rights advocates, including many service members, who strongly oppose any military control of privately-owned firearms.

"This is not about authoritarian regulation," Dr. Woodson told the Times. "It is about the spouse understanding warning signs and, if there are firearms in the home, responsibly separating the individual at risk from the firearm."

During 2011, the U.S. Army reported 165 confirmed cases of suicide. From January through August 2012, the Army reported 131 potential suicides, of which 80 had been confirmed and 51 under investigation.

Also See: Obama Changes Combat Suicide Condolences Policy


November 3, 2012 at 9:09 am
(1) Debbie. bryant says:

I think the American people have the right to know the truth about Bengazi. Before election day. All cover ups should be uncovered before we are suppose to vote for a President! That was American. Citizens on U.S. Soil that were executed and we have done nothing about it.

November 4, 2012 at 8:06 pm
(2) Dennis says:

@ Debbie

What does Bengazi have to do with military suicide rates? How about you have a cup of shut the hell up about politics and leave this space for meaning conversation about how we as Americans can help soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors and prevent them from committing suicide. This is part of the reason why America is in a shite hole. People to focused on the wrong things. SMH!

We need to show our service members that life is not worth throwing away, no matter how hard life may seem. We need to reach out to our service members and we need to show them that we care about them, even if we don’t know them. We have to do something to give back to them for all they sacrifice for us. Its the least we can do.

November 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(3) Joe Hollinger says:

It is a horrible shame that our young women and young men have to experience war so horrible that their minds and bodies can forever be so horribly altered. I praise every person in the military for their unselfish giving of themselves for their country and for their fellow citizens.

Until we have a government that does not practice nation-building for the benefit of special interests we will have young people suffering these horrible tragedies.

The U,S. must adopt new policies that change its model from that of the killer of innocent civilians to one of mentor to citizens that want to experience freedom and grow their countries to become bastions of freedom and liberty for all their citizens. Mentoring to show these people, that want to learn, how they can develop free markets that will improve the lots of all citizens through their personal industries.

Ending the current U.S. policies of war, war and more war will improve our relationships with other countries and take our young folks out of harms way. American citizens should have trusted Ron Paul and brought real, good change to America. Instead, the takers elected a potential dictator as President. Under such a leader our young will continue to die and be maimed.

Americans must stay constantly aware of what is happening within their own government and regain control of it. If we don’t, our young folks will continue to suffer for what really amounts to nothing for the common good.

God Bless All of You Serving in Our Military and may He protect you all from harm.

Joseph. D. Hollinger
USN Retired

April 15, 2014 at 12:40 pm
(4) spatin says:

This article and the recommendations are insane. Returning military veterans should not have their rights reduced to the permission of some anti-gun burearcrat, and they should never have to endure the loss of their 2nd Amendment rights. If someone really thinks a veteran is in danger of killing himself, for whatever, reason, the vet should receive medical care – not have his personally owned firearms taken away.

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