Gun safety program goes statewide to reduce military, veteran suicide deaths
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Suicide rates among active-duty military members are currently at their highest level since record-keeping began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In an effort to save lives, people in crisis now have a new program to turn to for help.
The program is called “Live Today, Put It Away.” It started in the Milwaukee area and has grown into a statewide effort.
Gun shops, shooting ranges, even law enforcement can participate.
If a military servicemember, veteran -- or anyone -- is struggling with thoughts of suicide or harming others, they can go to a participating business and voluntarily drop off their unloaded firearms. The business will safely and securely store the guns, and when the crisis passes the gun owner can reclaim their firearms.
Veteran Bob Vandewall said, “We were all trained to do things that are not normal in our society and then we got turned loose without being retrained to enter society, and I think that was a failing of the military to recognize that there is a transition coming out from being trained to serve in the military and then be a civilian in society.”
More than 30 businesses across the state are part of the Live Today, Put It Away program, including:
- Blackhawk Shooting Sports, Oostburg
- Family Shooting Academy, Bellevue
- Nelson Tactical, Green Bay
- T&L Tactical Firearms & Range, Manitowoc
- Trigger Action Sports, Appleton
- Virlee Gunworks, New Franken
- Virlee Gunworks, Sturgeon Bay
- Wild Wings Sportsman’s Club, Campbellsport
Businesses also offer gun safety and suicide prevention resources.
Mike Shea, manager at the Family Shooting Academy outside Green Bay, believes it’s crucial to raise awareness of veterans with PTSD and other mental health struggles.
“I think that’s a big part of the program is getting that information in front of people and making people aware of it so that we don’t get to the point where it becomes an issue,” Shea said.
Businesses and law enforcement agencies interested in participating can sign up online or mail in a form. The website includes advice for firearms dealers and a contract for holding firearms.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can find help by dialing 988 for Wisconsin’s suicide and crisis lifeline.
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