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New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition

  • Project Title: The Gun Shop Project
  • Program Representative Interviewed: Elaine Frank, co-chair of the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition
  • Location: New Hampshire
  • Program Overview: The Gun Shop Project started in 2009 as a collaborative effort under the umbrella of the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition. The project was inspired by a devastating series of suicides in New Hampshire. Over the course of just a few days in 2009, three separate individuals purchased a gun from the same retailer and took their own lives within a few hours of purchase. Following these events, a small group of concerned community members, the affected gun shop owner, organizational representatives from behavioral health and suicide prevention programs, and public health researchers formed to discuss the role of gun shops in preventing suicide, which eventually developed into the Gun Shop Project.

    The program, which is now operated by the New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition, sends materials via mail to the 70+ independent gun shops throughout the state. Some products are targeted to gun shop owners and employees, while others are designed for customers. Materials include resources for gun shops to help them identify and address a customer who is potentially suicidal. For customers, there are written materials with information about identifying signs of suicide, where to call for help, and ways to make sure guns are not accessible to those who are suicidal. After the initial mailing of materials, the coalition evaluated how many shops were using at least some of these materials and found that 48% of all independent gun shops in New Hampshire had at least one on display, which was a very encouraging response. The coalition plans to send another mailing soon, followed by another evaluation to see how materials are used currently.

    In the early phases of the program, there were no existing programs for the coalition to draw from, nor was there much funding available to support the project. The coalition relied on people to volunteer their time and was able to keep printing and production costs relatively low. The project is also a true collaboration between gun shop owners, mental health professionals, researchers, and other community members. Representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the New Hampshire Bureau of Behavioral Health, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have all been involved. Materials were developed by the coalition, but relied heavily on input and feedback from gun shop owners. The Gun Shop Project has thrived thanks to these key stakeholders working toward a common mission of reducing suicides by firearms.

    Since the Gun Shop Project launched in 2009, it has received attention in the media and has been used as a model for similar programs throughout the U.S., including many in rural areas.

Models represented by this program: