HumCo’s DHHS, gun retailers partner on suicide prevention program with free lock boxes

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Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services’s Suicide and Violence Prevention program has extended to firearms retailers.

“The Suicide and Violence Prevention program is a program within county public health that’s designed to decrease our suicide rates in humboldt county by using preventive measures,” DHHS’s health education specialist Jonathan Abadari said.

76 percent of firearm deaths in Humboldt County were suicide-related.

As part of their Keep It Safe campaign, one preventative measure is offering free lock boxes throughout firearm retailers throughout Humboldt County.

Ballistic Precision is one of the many firearm retailers working with the DHHS’s to provide free lock boxes.

“Adding those lockboxes to the whole situation is really beneficial. Cable locks are great but they are not strong. Whereas a lockbox is 16 gauge, heavy duty, California DOJ-approved. They aren’t just any lock box. You can’t just have any lock box. They have to be approved by the Department of Justice,” Ballistic Precision co-founder Jared Wattle said.

The indoor shooting range has free lock boxes on display with a sign stating that overdose, injury, and suicide can be prevented.

A sign telling those with thoughts of contemplating suicide to call 988, the National Suicide Hotline, sits above the counter.

“Generally firearm owners aren’t as susceptible to suicide as someone else may be in the household or a friend that knows there is a firearm they can gain access to. So having it locked up can deter someone in that moment,” Wattle said.

Other retailers include RMI Outdoors, Bucksport Sporting Goods, Pacific Outfitters, and Fortuna Ace Hardware.

The program won the “Striving for Zero: Suicide Prevention Excellence Award” at a state conference for their partnership.

“We’re really trying to borrow the concept of harm reduction and apply that here. So we are definitely trying to work with people and work with what they are comfortable with while also trying to achieve our goals of reducing suicide,” Abadari said.

It’s a goal both retailers and the DHHS share.

“Without these gun shop project partners, this really would be impossible,” Abadari said. “Something that I noticed in doing this work is that everyone who is working as a retailer or at a range in that community, when I bring up the subject of what we’re trying to work on, has a story, so there’s a lot of personal motivation for people in this community to try and keep the community safe.”

The DHHS is working on adding a mental health course within the Conceal Carry Weapons permit training.

That course is in the working phases at this time of reporting.