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At first glance, it’s a seemingly unlikely marriage: a public education campaign offering Safer Lock boxes to attendees at the Spokane Gun Show & Flea Market. The Safer Homes, Suicide Aware public health campaign reached more than 250 firearms owners at the Spokane Gun Show & Flea Market, held at the Spokane County Fairgrounds and Expo this past spring.

At the expo, staff and volunteers from the Safer Homes, Suicide Aware Coalition talked with attendees about their current storage practices for firearms and medications and about suicide loss. The conversations were intended to raise awareness of suicide in Washington’s communities and to help change practices around safely storing firearms and medications.

Led by Forefront Suicide Prevention and the Second Amendment Foundation, the Safer Homes Coalition is comprised of firearms retailers, second amendment rights groups, healthcare providers and suicide prevention experts. They have come together with the singular goal of saving lives. The suicide prevention coalition, made up of 43 partners across Washington state, is focused on limiting unauthorized access to firearms and medications in homes.

In Washington state, 78% of firearm deaths from 2005-2015 were suicides. In 2016, 1,131 residents died by suicide, making it the eighth leading cause of death overall in Washington state.

“Safer Homes” signifies a home in which potentially lethal means are unavailable to a suicidal individual. “Suicide Aware” signifies the universal need to educate people about suicide prevention and steps that we can take to help those at risk.

Each of the 250-plus Expo attendees was able to select a firearm locking device (a lock box or Life Jacket Firearm Locking Safety Case) and a medication device (a Safer Lock box or a drug deactivation pouch).

Locked storage of firearms and medications can put a barrier between someone in a mental health crisis and who may move toward an impulsive suicide. With that extra passage of time, the sense of crisis can ease and the person may decide to seek help. The initiative’s emphasis on locking up medications and disposing of expired or unused medications also will help to prevent misuse, accidental overdoses, and addiction.