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Rural Health Information Hub

Colorado Gun Shop Project

  • Project Title: Colorado Gun Shop Project
  • Program Representative Interviewed: Sarah Brummett
  • Location: Colorado
  • Program Overview: The Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, in collaboration local community-based organizations, gun shop owners, and firearm instructors, established and piloted the Colorado Gun Shop Project in five rural counties on the Western Slope of the state. This project is an adapted version of New Hampshire's Gun Shop Project. The opportunity arose with the additional attention on lethal means safety following the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

    To begin the Colorado Gun Shop Project, the Office identified local organizations and individuals to serve as firearm advocates, or trusted messengers, to approach gun shops and range owners with suicide prevention resources and materials. These advocates build relationships with local businesses and raise awareness of suicide prevention as a firearm safety issue. Monthly calls with local advocates provide a forum to discuss successes and challenges, share feedback from gun shop and range owners, and navigate difficult conversations. These conversations have also given rise to adaptations to address unique needs of rural farmers and veterans. For example, nuances have included considering where rural ranchers keep and store firearms and understanding financial stressors for farming families.

    In 2016, the Office joined the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition, which is a collaborative partnership of prevention professionals and the firearm community, coming together to explore shared opportunities to support efforts like the Gun Shop Project, geared at reducing the incidence of firearm fatalities in the state.

    Like the Coalition, the Gun Shop Project leverages the strengths of local communities through the initiative, including close social networks and a willingness to help neighbors. Branding is done locally, since locally led initiatives have more traction and buy-in, and the Office provides templates to communities for their own branding. The Office reports that trust, reputation, and word-of-mouth have also been critical to the program's success, particularly when collaborating with gun shop and range owners.

    Strategies that have helped Coalition members build trust with potential participants include visiting gun ranges and taking a pistol safety course. Once they gain buy-in from one gun shop or range owner, other gun shops and ranges typically follow suit. Coalition members' efforts have led to stronger relationships between traditional mental health organizations and the gun-owning community, with gun shops and ranges contacting mental health organizations for suicide prevention training and postvention support.

Models represented by this program: