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Coalition Gets Help from NH Gun Dealers in Suicide Prevention Project

September 19, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - Within one week in 2009, three people in New Hampshire bought guns from a single store store and used the firearms to kill themselves within hours of the purchase. The incidents were unrelated, but the situation got the attention of the state Medical Examiner's office and suicide prevention advocates. Firearms retailers, mental health professionals and others have worked to create materials for gun shops and firing ranges to display in hopes of preventing suicides.

Ralph Demicco is the owner of Riley's Sport Shop in Hooksett, one of the biggest gun dealers in the state and a member of the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition.

"Dealers have been given posters, they've been given a DVD and the simple message is, 'Put time and distance between people who might tend to be suicidal.' If you're in the firearms business you have a social responsibility to look at your customers and take the proper steps to prevent something from happening under your watch."

Demicco acknowledges that while gun dealers are not expected to be trained psychologists, there are warning signs that retailers can be made aware of, and perhaps by preventing or delaying a gun sale, could save a life.

The New Hampshire Firearms Safety Coalition surveyed 33 gun shops and dealers in New Hampshire. According to Elaine Frank, co-chair of the coalition, most have been receptive to the idea, though some were skeptical.

"There are no guarantees that anything that we do in prevention will work all of the time, but I do think it's worth making an effort to take opportunities to intervene when we can."

Tip sheets for retailers include signs that a gun buyer could be suicidal, as well as suggestions for how to respond. Stores have also been asked to display suicide prevention posters.

According to the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition, about one in ten firearm suicides in New Hampshire is carried out with a gun purchased within that same week, usually within hours.

The new safety campaign begins this month and information is available on-line at theconnectproject.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH