There's sort of a designated driver in Jason Stavely's circle of Iraq buddies, but he doesn't take away peoples' car keys. He takes the guns.
"Come toward September-October, if I get the feeling, I'm more than happy to give my guns back to my buddy again," said Stavely.
Stavely has bad memories from the war that get triggered every autumn. And last year, one of his Marine Corps friends died by suicide in October. So Stavely's therapist at the Veterans Affairs clinic suggested getting his guns out of the house.
"I called up my buddy, and I'm like, 'Hey, can you hold on to 'em for a bit?' He's like, 'Oh yeah, no problem.' "
Stavely loves target-shooting and hunting. But he also realizes that suicide can be an impulsive act and a gun might make it too easy.
Suicide is rising in American society, and in the past decade, veterans' suicide was higher than civilians' for the first time. The causes are notoriously hard to study, since it's still a relatively rare event.
But researchers say there is one clear way to reduce the chances of veterans killing themselves: Put their guns out of reach.
"We know that the decision to end one's life is often spontaneous — that's why eliminating easy access to firearms during a mental health crisis is so important," said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former vice chief of staff of the Army.
Chiarelli cites numerous studies that show how limiting access to guns sharply reduces suicide.
Firearms are the deadliest method of suicide — attempts with pills, for example, don't kill nearly as often. Military experience means veterans know how to use them. Gun use may help explain the shockingly high suicide rate of female veterans compared with female civilians. According to the VA, female veterans are 33 percent more likely to use a gun in suicide than civilian women.
To state the obvious, taking away guns is a politically sensitive idea — and one of the first acts of the new Congress has been to move on a bill that would make it more difficult to do that.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment