By: Brendan Campbell, MD, MPH, J. Leslie Knod, MD, and Kevin Borrup, DrPH, JD, MPA

Each year, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center is proud to participate in a gun buyback event to make our communities safer. The point is to provide people with a way to safely dispose of the firearms that they no longer want to keep around. The firearms may have been left to them when a family member passed away, or their circumstances may have changed in a way that makes firearm ownership no longer possible, necessary or recommended. In return for their firearm, people receive gift cards with the amounts varying based on the condition and kind of firearm turned in.

Some people have asked, “What difference does a gun buyback make?” This is a fair question.

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Let’s start with some background. Americans own a lot of firearms, about 400 million firearms. While homicides seem to dominate the news around firearms, twice as many suicide deaths are attributable to firearms. That’s right, there are many more firearm deaths classified as suicide deaths than homicide. The firearms that are often used in a suicide attempt are those that are available, meaning that they are owned by the person attempting suicide or a member of their household. So, while firearms are plentiful, restricting access to firearms is the number one way to prevent a firearm suicide death. Suicide prevention experts agree that if we can interrupt or delay an attempt by restricting access to lethal means, such as a firearm, then that individual may very well move beyond the mental health crisis they are experiencing and never attempt suicide again.

Gun buybacks are just one tool that we can use to keep firearms safely out of the hands of people who should not have them, including children. As a children’s hospital, we know that children as young as 8 years old, and even younger, think about killing themselves. The annual Capital Region Gun Buyback Program gives us another opportunity to speak directly to parents about the importance of keeping their firearms safely under their control. When at home, this means keeping your firearm unloaded and locked using a gun lock or gun safe. Recently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a national firearm industry trade group based in Connecticut partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help promote firearm safety and suicide prevention. Their materials encourage responsible firearm ownership by emphasizing safe storage.

For more information about the linkage between safe storage and suicide prevention, read this article.