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Resources for Covering Gun Suicide After Reports Confirm Capitol Police Officer Took His Own Life With a Gun

February 17, 2021

Last week, reports confirmed that Jeffrey Smith, the third Capitol police officer to die after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, took his own life with a gun. His death is the second suicide by a police officer after a mob breached the Capitol last month.

During the pandemic, experts continue to raise the alarm about the heightened risk of suicide — citing the uptick in calls to suicide prevention hotlinesmore young people having suicidal thoughts during the pandemic, and record gun sales

Following news of this tragic gun suicide, here are resources to help frame ongoing reporting:

  • To illuminate the links between firearm access and suicide and highlight approaches to prevention, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund released reports detailing the potential impact of coronavirus on gun suicide without action from policymakers, the rise in youth suicide over the last decade, and a first of its kind study tracking firearm suicide by congressional district. 
  • The January 2020 Surgeon General’s report on suicide prevention included recommendations to address gun suicide, such as:
    • Storing firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.
    • Implementing extreme risk laws, which allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns.
    • During periods of crisis, temporarily storing firearms out of the home.
    • Partnering with gun dealers and shooting ranges to promote and educate gun buyers on firearms safety and safe storage.
    • Improving data collection about suicide deaths.
    • Increasing the use of lethal means safety counseling and training health care providers, including nurses, social workers, case managers, and peer workers on lethal means safety counseling.
    • Researching lethal means safety strategies and interventions, trusted messengers for suicide prevention, and culturally competent implementation of suicide interventions. 
    • Effectively implementing the new suicide prevention hotline 988 number.

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide, which were developed by suicide prevention experts, international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, media organizations and key journalists as well as Internet safety experts. Their partners include, but are not limited to, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, American Association of Suicidology, and Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

If our organization can be a resource, do not hesitate to reach out. More information about gun suicide is available here, and the full list of recommendations on how to report on suicide is here.

If you are a survivor of gun suicide and gun violence, resources from the Everytown Survivor Network are available here. If you are struggling and need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always open: 800-273-8255.

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]