Differences in firearm storage practices among United States military servicemembers who have and have not disclosed suicidal thoughts or attended behavioral health sessions
Anestis, M.D., Bond, A.E., Capron, D.W., Bryan, A.O., & Bryan, C.J.
Introduction Two-thirds of military suicides are by firearm, and unsafe storage increases the risk of suicide. Understanding who is at risk for suicide, their interactions with behavioral healthcare, and their firearm storage habits have implications for suicide prevention. Method Probability-based sampling was used. Inclusion criteria were current military service and firearm ownership. Analyses focused on those who endorsed past year (n = 180) or past month suicidal ideation (n = 85). Results Servicemembers with undisclosed past year ideation stored firearms at home more often and with a locking device less often. Servicemembers with past year ideation who did not attend recent behavioral health sessions stored firearms with a locking device and loaded less often. Servicemembers with undisclosed suicidal ideation in the past month stored firearms with a locking device less often. Servicemembers with past month ideation who have not attended recent behavioral health sessions stored firearms with a locking device and loaded less often. Conclusions Servicemembers experiencing undisclosed suicidal ideation and who are not receiving treatment generally have more ready access to firearms. Safe firearm storage messaging needs to be disseminated in a manner that shifts social norms around firearm storage, whether or not suicide risk is known.