Brave Conversations
Make The Difference


Image: Adobe Stock / bignai

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Perhaps this time of year, over any other, would be the time to emphasize brave conversations with those in our circles going through difficult times.
This topic hits a little too close to home for many — especially as suicide rates climbed to a new high last year.

In August, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released the latest provisional estimates for suicide deaths in the U.S., which climbed from 48,183 deaths in 2021 to an estimated 49,449 deaths in 2022 (2.6% increase).

Suicide by firearm accounted for more than half of suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2022 — something anti-gun groups have seized upon to advance their agendas. However, despite efforts of anti-gun groups to demonize the firearms industry, industry leaders are committed to doing something to prevent suicide by firearm.

Meaningful Communications

Joe Bartozzi, president and CEO of NSSF, sat down with Shooting Industry to highlight how his organization is spearheading an industry-wide effort to educate and emphasize the safe, secure storage of firearms.

In mid-September, NSSF is hosting a roundtable discussion on the topic of mental health, suicide prevention and the importance of secure storage of firearms with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Denver. A roundtable discussion was held last year, and it made such a lasting impact among attendees the NSSF and VA decided to make it an annual event. Significant representation by industry companies is expected this year — from both manufacturers and retailers.

According to Bartozzi, this year’s roundtable will focus on how industry companies can educate their employees and customers about this sensitive topic.

“Our members have direct-consumer customers who can be very impactful in this process,” he said. “The focus of this year’s roundtable is on the need to get more granular and impact consumers. We’ll talk about having meaningful communications, how we can reach the entire industry from top to bottom and what steps we can take together to, collectively, educate folks on the fact suicide is preventable and we can do something about it.”

NSSF’s leadership in this discussion is nothing new, as it has been working with the VA and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) since 2019. The three organizations combined to produce a downloadable toolkit, “Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business: A Toolkit for Safe Firearm Storage in Your Community.” Bartozzi shared it has been well received.

“This is a difficult topic, but I really believe there’s a willingness in our industry to do the right thing — to be engaged, learn more and prevent suicide,” he said. “We’ve been sending out thousands of toolkits to interested dealers. It’s encouraging they’re seeing their part of the process.”

It's Going To Take All Of Us

Bartozzi noted our industry has a significant veteran presence — which further propels the importance of this initiative. Bartozzi emphasized: “Let’s have each other’s back.”

He continued, “We care about this topic, we’re invested in this topic — and we’re doing something about it. We’re asking everyone to consider the options of how to securely store firearms. Consider having that conversation with someone who might be having a hard time.”

Bartozzi hopes a discussion on mental health and suicide prevention can be normalized.
“We’re an industry — a community — who cares about this topic and we care about those who are dealing with this,” he said.

Finally, Bartozzi said the onus rests on all of us, collectively, to do something.

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” he said. “We’re bringing every resource to bear, social media, webinars, live events, outreach to our industry. Every chance we’re doing this, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”