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Public Health - Seattle & King County

For health care providers

Dear Health Care Provider:

Welcome to the Lok-It-Up website. The resources available on this site can help you play an important role in encouraging safe storage of firearms. The 1990s saw a dramatic increase in firearm fatalities among youth. Now, though violent crime rates are decreasing, rates of suicide and preventable firearm injuries aren't improving in the new millennium. Firearms are the leading cause of suicides and homicides among youth in Washington state.

Talking with your patients about safe gun storage can help turn the tide. The links below will take you to resources that will answer some of your questions about the efficacy of physician counseling on this topic and give you facts that you can use when talking with patients. Thank you for taking the time to peruse these materials- we hope you can use these resources to help make homes safer for children.

Patient education materials
Sample questions to raise the issue of safe gun storage

Ask: "If you have any firearms at home, are they stored unloaded and locked?"

If "No", recommend safe storage. Keep firearms unloaded and locked. Recommend that ammunition be stored separately. Screen for situations that might place family members at high risk of injury despite safe storage (such as adolescent in home, family member(s) who are depressed or suicidal), and make appropriate recommendations.

If "Yes", reinforce choice to keep firearm unloaded and locked. Check that ammunition is stored separately. Screen for situations that might place family members at high risk of injury despite safe storage (such as adolescent in home, family member(s) who are depressed or suicidal), and make appropriate recommendations.

Ask: "Before you send your child to someone's house, do you ask if firearms in the home are stored unloaded and locked?"

If "No", provide the parent tips on asking "Are firearms in your home safely stored?"

Tips and scripts to provide parents:

  • Ask about firearms along with other things you discuss before your child goes to play at someone's home such as seat belt use, allergies and animals.
  • "I don't mean any disrespect, but knowing how curious my child can be, I feel I have to ask this question..."
  • "I hope you don't mind me asking if you have a firearm in your home and if it is properly stored..."

If "Yes", reinforce decision to talk with other families and friends.

Source: ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign

Lethal Means Restriction

What is Lethal Means Restriction?

While many efforts to prevent suicide focus on the why of suicide, "Lethal Means Restriction" or "Means Reduction" focuses on the how. It is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.

Lethal Means Restriction involves asking questions of at-risk people regarding their access to lethal means, speaking to family members of at-risk people about the availability of lethal means in the home, and offering non-judgmental advice and resources on safe storage or firearms and medications.

What does Lethal Means Restriction involve?

  • Removing guns from the homes of at-risk people or storing guns locked and unloaded.
  • Erecting barriers on bridges.
  • Dispensing fewer sleeping pills or other potentially lethal medication to at-risk people.

Why is it important?

  • Many suicide attempts are impulsive; that is, they occur during a temporary crisis. Restricting access to means can decrease potential for completed suicides.
  • Means matter- intent isn't all that determines whether an attempter lives or dies.
  • 90% of attempters do not go on to die by suicide later.
  • Access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide.
  • Firearms in youth suicide cases usually belong to a parent.
  • Restricting access to lethal means SAVES LIVES!

"If highly lethal means are made less available to impulsive attempters and they substitute less lethal means, or temporarily postpone their attempt, the odds are increased that they will survive. Studies in a variety of countries have indicated that when access to lethal means is reduced, both the means-specific suicide rate and, very often, the overall suicide rate decline."

Source: Means Matter, Harvard School of Public Health