The majority of gun deaths in Missouri are suicides. While a person can think about suicide for an extended period of time, the decision to act often occurs in less than one hour. Having quick access to a firearm in that moment can determine if someone lives or dies.
Access to firearms increases the risk of death by suicide by 300%. By storing our guns securely — locked, unloaded, and away from ammunition — we can help protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Missouri has the 16th highest suicide rate in the nation. It also has the 11th highest suicide by firearm rate. This is why End Family Fire and Missouri Foundation for Health are partnering to ensure that Missourians understand the importance of safe gun storage. Conversations about safe storage between partners, families, friends, and co-workers can help prevent firearm suicide and keep us all safer.
Read on for more information about how to make your home and community safer through safe firearm storage.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
What to Know
Q: Why is this important to Missourians?
A: From 2000 to 2020, the firearm suicide rate in Missouri increased by nearly 50%. And in 2020, the state’s suicide by firearm rate was 1.5 times higher than the national average.4 These rates cannot continue and this is an issue affecting every community. Missouri veteran suicide rates are nearly 2.5 times higher than the U.S. general population rate.5 In addition, from 2019 to 2020, firearm suicide rates for Black individuals in Missouri increased by more than 40%.
Q: Why should I use safe storage practices and devices for my firearm?
A: Using safe gun storage methods can reduce unintentional injury and suicide. Nearly 90% of all firearm suicide attempts result in a fatality. Safe storage delays access to a firearm in a time of crisis which can prevent deaths, including suicide.
Q: How do I safely store my firearm?
A: The first step in ensuring your firearm is safely stored is to keep it locked and unloaded, with ammunition in a separate location. This creates several steps that one would have to take to use the firearm, preventing unintentional injury or suicide. You can store your firearm safely using one of the following mechanisms:
Trigger Lock: Trigger locks are two-piece locking devices that fit over the trigger guard. They include a firm cylinder that fits behind the trigger, preventing someone from firing the weapon. They come with a keypad, combination, or key that opens the lock. Some are battery-operated or have anti-tamper alarms as an extra measure of safety. You can find trigger locks for as cheap as $10.
Cable Lock: Cable locks look like padlocks, where you insert one end of the cable through the chamber and out the magwell, then locked at the base. They prevent someone from pulling the trigger and can be removed by a key or combination. You can buy a cable lock for about $5-10.
Gun Safe: Gun safes are what most often come to mind when someone considers how to store firearms. They are made of thick steel walls and are often too heavy to be carried or moved. Most have a lock on the outside, ranging from a regular lock to biometric locks. Biometric locks use fingerprint recognition to allow for quick, but limited access to firearms. As the most expensive safety measure, you can find gun safes for as little as $150, and up to over $1,000.
Gun Cabinet: Gun cabinets are lighter versions of gun safes. They are easier to move, but are also easier to break into. Gun cabinets generally use a standard key lock. Depending on their size, you can buy a gun cabinet for anywhere between $80 to $400.
Q: I want to temporarily give my firearm to a friend and/or family member. Is that allowed?
A: In Missouri, it is legal to lend your firearm to someone you know for self-defense or safe keeping. That person must be legally allowed to have a firearm. When considering who should hold on to your firearm, choose someone you trust. They should also have a way to safely store the firearm. If you have questions, talk to local law enforcement or a firearm retailer.
Q: I want to permanently get rid of my firearm. How can I do this?
A: If you think a firearm at home may present a danger to you or a loved one, you can store your gun outside the home. There are a few ways to do this. You can transfer your firearm to someone else. In Missouri, paperwork is not needed, but it is best to ask a trusted source if you need to take any extra steps. You can usually deliver your firearm to a local police station or sheriff's department. Call ahead to ask if they accept personal firearms and what procedures are involved. Some important questions to ask include:
Whether the firearm should be delivered to the station or if they will come to collect it.
If you are going to the station, you will not be permitted to bring the firearm into the building. Be sure to ask how they would like you to store your firearm during the exchange.
If they are coming to you, be sure to ask for a time frame so you can be prepared.
There are also national companies that will help you give up your firearm. The National Center for Unwanted Firearms can destroy, repurpose, or preserve unwanted firearms. You can speak to a specialist who will match you with someone to help unload, box, and send away the firearm. Call 833-448-4867 or visit unwantedfirearms.org/sell-or-donate to learn more.
Local Mental Health Resources
If you are in crisis:
- Call: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255
- Text: National Crisis Text Line, send the keyword “MOSAFE” to 741741
- Chat: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline chat
- Find a 24-Hour Crisis Line in Your County
Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri
Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri (MHA-EM) works to promote mental health and improve the care and treatment of persons living with mental illness through advocacy, education, and service. Affiliated with Mental Health America, MHA-EM is a not-for-profit organization that offers services such as a call-in help line, peer support groups, wellness programs, and more for not only those experiencing mental illness, but also families and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. Learn more about MHA-EM at mha-em.org.
Missouri Behavioral Health Council
The Missouri Behavioral Health Council is composed of 33 member agencies that aim to reduce stigma, increase access, and support Missouri’s behavioral health professionals. They offer services ranging from advocacy and integrated care, to health information management and prevention & recovery. Learn more about their services and member agencies at mobhc.org.
Missouri Department of Mental Health
The Division of Behavioral Health manages programs and services for people who need help from mental illness or substance use disorders. They offer services such as evaluation, intervention, treatment, and more. For more information, visit dmh.mo.gov. To find a local community mental health center click here.
Missouri Suicide Prevention Network
MSPN’s goal is to coordinate and develop implementation of the Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan, based on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. You can find the network’s recommended prevention, crisis, treatment, and recovery resources at mospn.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Missouri
NAMI Missouri is a non-profit organization that works to provide education, support and advocacy on behalf of people with serious mental illness and their families regardless of race, religion or national origin. There are nine NAMI affiliates across the state— two (St. Louis & Southwest Missouri) have offices with professional staff, while the others are completely volunteer-run. Find out more at namimissouri.org.
- Anglemyer, Horvath, & Rutherford. (2014). The Accessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, 160(2), 101-110.
- Conner A, Azrael D, Miller M. Suicide Case-Fatality Rates in the United States, 2007 to 2014: A Nationwide Population-Based Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Dec 17;171(12):885-895. doi: 10.7326/M19-1324. Epub 2019 Dec 3. PMID: 31791066.
- Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, & National Center for Health Statistics. (2022). Suicide Mortality by State. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/suicide-mortality/suicide.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2020 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2020, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html on Apr 7, 2022 12:04:47 PM
- Missouri Veteran Suicide Data Sheet, 2019. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/2019/2019-State-Data-Sheet-Missouri-508.pdf