I am Kyleanne Hunter, a US Marine Corps combat veteran, professor at the Air Force Academy. I’m here to answer your questions about how we can support veteran mental health – and as a gun owner, how safe gun storage can play a role in saving the l...
I’m Kyleanne Hunter and I spent over a decade as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, flying the AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack helicopter, with multiple combat deployments. I currently study suicide prevention in military and veteran communities. .
From both personal and scholarly experience, I know too well the battles that we as veterans are facing, especially this year—including mental health challenges like post-traumatic stress and depression, and economic anxiety in a challenging job market. The added stress of the pandemic is making navigating challenges even more difficult. Tragically, every day in the United States, 17 veterans die by suicide. When I hear that chilling number, I can’t help but think that many of these deaths may have been prevented with access to adequate mental health care, safe gun storage, and other interventions.
I include safe gun storage among those other lifesaving interventions because firearms are uniquely fatal, and the method used in the majority of completed veteran suicides. When someone has access to a gun in a moment of crisis, they rarely get a second chance to live a full life. And nearly half of all veterans, including myself, own at least one firearm.
If we want to truly honor our veterans every day, not only on Veterans Day, we must take action to support lifesaving interventions to prevent veteran suicide. And one easy step we can all take is storing any guns in our households safely, and having conversations with our friends and family about their gun storage practices and their mental wellness. I know this from experience—a “buddy check” in a time of crisis once saved my life.
Safe gun storage is how we can prevent “family fire,” a term for all injuries and deaths that results from improperly stored or misused guns found in the home. You can visit http://www.EndFamilyFire.org for more resources and safe storage tips. And if you or anyone you know is in an immediate crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
I’m looking forward to answering any questions you may have about supporting veteran mental health and safe gun storage – ask me anything!
AMA ENDED: Thanks for joining my AMA. If you missed it, you can still check out the discussion below!