Academy gives out gunlocks to reduce suicides

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Scores of drivers braving rush hour to the Air Force Academy received a gift Sept. 15: a gunlock.

Violence prevention officials and other staff gave out 1,500 gunlocks during the morning commute at the base’s North and South gates.

“It was a huge success,” said Megan Lee, one of the school’s two violence prevention integrators. “After passing out nearly 1,500 gun locks, we ran out.” 

The event was part of the Defense Department’s “Safes, Locks and Outside the Home” campaign to reduce suicides by increasing firearm safety. Suicide prevention research indicates a gap exists between a person deciding to die by suicide and going through with the act.  A gunlock may deter someone from suicide by providing a window of opportunity to reconsider his or her decision. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 24,432 suicides by firearm in the U.S. in 2018. The Center also reported that accidental firearm discharges were responsible for the deaths of 458 people that year.

 “The Air Force Academy is not afraid to talk about suicide, address suicide and make substantive efforts regarding the difficult topic of suicide to prevent it,” said Ken Robinson, a violence prevention integrator at the school.

The Air Force announced earlier this year it would give away 150,000 gunlocks at stateside bases.

 “Many people expressed gratitude for the [gun lock give away] and said they’re happy to see the Academy addressing suicide prevention,” Robinson said.  

September is Suicide Prevention Month across the Defense Department, with each service branch working to raise awareness about suicide and violence prevention. The DOD’s slogan for the month is “Connect to Protect,” meant to emphasize healthy connections to family, friends and communities.

“Suicide prevention is a team effort,” Robinson said. “It’s about real community, a community that cares for each other, picks each other up when we’re discouraged and responds when our colleagues’ struggles seem to be overwhelming.”

Robinson and Lee support the school’s Violence Prevention Program and connect cadets and service members to the base’s support agencies, including the Peak Performance Center and chaplains at the base.

Call 1-800-273 TALK to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.