September 22, 2020

Maine Safer Homes Taskforce Unveils Firearm Safety Guidance

Maine Safer Homes Taskforce Unveils Firearm Safety Guidance

AUGUSTA, Maine (September 2, 2020) - The Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services (MBVS) is pleased to announce the creation of the Maine Safer Homes Taskforce (MSHT). The taskforces main mission will be to promote firearm and medication safety in our homes in an effort to prevent suicide in Maine. Nationally recognized as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, the taskforce will use the month of September to begin the distribution of its educational materials.

The MSHT endorses a public health approach to combat Maines suicide rate the highest rate in the northeast. Members of the taskforce include: the Sportsmans Alliance of Maine, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Maine, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, the VA Maine Healthcare System, and Maine Vet Centers. By utilizing the strong safety culture that already exists within the firearms community in Maine, the taskforce seeks to promote gun safety education, mental health resources, and practical off-site storage of both firearms and medication for those working through mental health issues.

"Reducing the veteran suicide rate in Maine has been a goal of the veteran advocacy community for many years," said David Richmond, Director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services. While it is evident that awareness to the topic of suicide has increased, we also know that public education surrounding preventative safety measures need to be improved. We believe that by working with Maine Sportsmen and our fellow veterans advocates, we can reduce our rate here in Maine.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly 75% of veteran suicides in Maine are completed with a firearm. It has been proven that putting both time and space between someone in crisis and their firearm can save a life. Simple storage practices such as keeping a firearm unloaded and securing it with a gun lock when not in use can protect the owner, their family members and the public from misuse.

Means reduction is a method we can all understand and apply to a situation to help keep Maines veterans safe. Families, friends, veterans, and the community can work together to help reduce suicide risk by taking the time to learn the warning signs, work with veterans to create a safety plan that documents preferred steps to be taken if he or she is feeling unsafe, and utilize out-of-home or increased firearms and medication storage, said Sarah Sherman, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Maine Bureau of Veterans Services.

A few of the most important objectives the taskforce has taken on include:

Promoting temporary off-site firearm and medication storage options with family members or friends. Developing veteran family and community safety plans. Work with firearms retailers, firing ranges, firearms and hunter safety instructors to create suicide awareness programs.

As part of their Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month outreach efforts, the TaskForce in coordination with the VA Maine Healthcare System will be sending thousands of gun locks to their community partners for distribution. Gun locks are an extremely inexpensive way to put time and space between a person in crisis and their firearm.

For more information, and a copy of an MSHT brochure, please visit: You can also call the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services at 207-430-6035 or visit their website at to learn more about available resources across Maine.