Firearm Safety

Firearm Safety

Back view of a hunter with rifle walking up the hill in the forest.

If you or someone you know needs emotional support or is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained helpers are available 24/7. Or text VT to 741741 to talk to someone at the Crisis Text Line.

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one's safety or need emergency medical services, call 9-1-1.

 

FIREARM Injury And deaths ARE PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS in Vermont

Gun violence affects the lives of many Vermonters each year. Every year in Vermont, an average of 74 Vermonters die by firearm. Most firearm-related deaths in Vermont are due to suicide and are primarily among males. Additionally, an average of 39 Vermonters visit emergency departments or are hospitalized for firearm-related injuries.

About 43% of Vermont adults have a firearm in their place of residence, which places them at higher risk for firearm injury and death, primarily for suicide and unintentional injury. 

Injuries and deaths caused by firearms are also a public health issue nationally. Each year, over 40,000 Americans die by suicide, homicide, or accidents with firearms.

Firearm-related injuries and deaths are preventable and we can all play a role in creating safer communities. Learn more about your role in the sections below.

Safe Storage

Most non-fatal firearm injuries in Vermont are accidental. Storing firearms locked up and unloaded can prevent unintentional injuries and deaths, can prevent people in crisis from using a family firearm for suicide, and be sure firearms cannot be stolen or misused by others. Safe storage is especially important if there are young children or teenagers in the home.

BEST PRACTICES FOR SAFE FIREARM STORAGE INCLUDE:

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  • Keep firearms unloaded at all times.
  • Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction away from someone.
  • Keep the firearm stored in a secure location. If there are young children in the home implement the use of child safety locks and secure the location of the firearm in a place where only adults can access it.
  • Store ammunition in a location separate from the firearm itself.
  • Remove firearms from a household where an individual is exhibiting signs of suicide or mental health distress. Learn more about options for safe storage
  • For those who do not own a gun but their child or themselves may be entering a household who do, inquire about the storage of the firearm to determine whether the environment is safe for your child and educate your child to stay away from guns and if they see one get a trusted adult. Learn more about how to ask other households about their secure gun storage practices.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Suicide Prevention

In Vermont, most deaths involving firearms are due to suicide. A suicide attempt with a firearm is more likely to be fatal than most other means.

Understanding the warning signs and putting space between a person having thoughts of suicide or harming themselves and a gun is essential. Learn more about suicide warning signs.

The way we talk about suicide is also important. Asking someone if they are thinking of suicide will not plant the idea in their mind. Listening to someone can help save a life. For help in talking to someone about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or visit their website. By talking about suicide, we help reduce the stigma of suicide in our community. Learn nine ways to reduce the stigma associated with suicide from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  

  • If you or someone you know needs emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained helpers are available 24/7. Or text VT to 741741 to talk to someone at the Crisis Text Line.
  • Veterans call the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 or Text 838255 or chat online.
  • The Trevor Project supports LGBTQ+ youth 24/7. For people younger than age 25 in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk. Call 1-866-488-7386, Text START to 678678, or chat online
  • If you are concerned about your own or a loved one's safety or need emergency medical services, call 9-1-1.

Find additional suicide prevention and awareness resources.

Hunter and Recreation Safety

A responsible hunter follows the four C’s of responsible hunting:

Careful - The hunter’s attitude is committed to the basic rules of safety.

Courteous - The hunter’s behavior is polite, helpful, and gracious.

Considerate - The hunter’s respect for other hunters, landowners, and the non-hunting public.

Capable - The hunter’s abilities include marksmanship, outdoor skills, knowledge level and sound judgment.

These are also three questions each person must ask themselves in order before shooting.

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it legal?
  3. Is it ethical?

The shot can only be taken if the answer to all three is yes.

Additional hunter safety tips include:

  • Never assume the firearm is unloaded. 
  • Always control the muzzle. 
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond. “You’re responsible for knowing what’s in front of your target, near your target, and beyond your target. If you aren’t certain about any of the three, don’t take the shot.” 
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 
  • Always wear the necessary protective gear while hunting or in a shooting range. 
  • Wear vibrant-colored clothing such as blaze orange or pink when hunting so you are made to appear more visible to others.

You can learn more about Hunter Education from Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

SAFETY FOR NON-HUNTERS

If you are looking to go outdoors during the hunting season:

  • Make sure you can be seen by wearing brightly colored clothing;
  • Keep pets leashed and visible;
  • Know when and where hunting is allowed;
  • Make yourself known by whistling, talking loudly, or wearing a bell. Once you have made yourself known to hunters do not make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife or hunting.
Domestic Violence Prevention

In Vermont, the Vermont Network estimates that, annually, 41,000 Vermonters are victims of domestic or sexual violence, with about 10,000 of those being children. Half of all homicides in Vermont are due to domestic violence and most of those deaths are firearm-related. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are free resources and programs available both locally and nationally to support you.

Vermont Data
  1. In 2021, 89% of firearm-related deaths were suicides. This is similar to previous years. 52% of all suicide deaths were by firearm.
  2. In 2020, 49 hospital visits and 75 deaths were firearm-related. The trend in firearm injury and death has not significantly changed over the past ten years.
  3. In 2021, the homicide death rate was 1.4 per 100,000 or 9 deaths total. This is similar to previous years. The majority of firearm deaths were with a firearm.
  4. In 2021, the number and rate of Vermonters dying by suicide increased: 21.0 per 100,000 (142 deaths).
  5. Firearm death rates are 8 times higher among males than females and are similar across all age groups 15 and older.
  6. White, non-Hispanic males ages 25 and older are most likely to die by suicide.

HEALTH DEPARTMENT DATA BRIEFS