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Lock to Live

You or someone you know may feel hopeless, down, or alone right now. Many people have gotten through times like this, and you can too.

This tool can help you make decisions about temporarily reducing access to potentially dangerous things, like firearms, medicines, sharp objects, or other household items.

The promise of tomorrow can start with small steps towards safety today.

Get Started

Everyone goes through
tough times.

Some of us will feel down or hopeless, some will feel angry or frustrated, some may turn to drugs and alcohol.

Some of us will have thoughts of suicide.

While thoughts can last for days, weeks, or even longer, the decision to act is often sudden.

Our lowest moments don’t last forever.

9 out of 10

people who survive go on to live happy lives

Most people who think about killing themselves- or even try- will survive.

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/suicide
Owens D, Horrocks J, and House A. Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2002;181:193-199.
Show Citation

Even small changes in how you store dangerous household items can make a big difference.

There are many ways to store these items securely to fit your personal needs. Even if you already have a method you like, it’s good to think about storage again during this difficult time.

When taking the first steps towards safeguarding your home, you should be aware of some common and everyday items that could be potentially dangerous. These may include:

  • Sharp objects, like knives, scissors, and razor blades
  • Ropes, cords, bags, or other ligatures
  • Chemicals and poisons, such as bleach, drain cleaner, or nail polish remover

Thinking through a few questions can help you find the best storage option today.

Next Step

You don't have to do
this alone.

In fact, it’s a good idea to have someone you trust help make phone calls, hold onto potentially dangerous objects, take them to a storage facility, or help you store them either at home or elsewhere.

Who is someone you trust to help you with safe storage?

Select all that apply

We’re not storing any of your personal information

Let's Talk About Firearms

Many people own firearms or live in a place where one may be accessible.
Keeping dangerous items, like firearms and medications, out of reach during this time can save a life.

9 out of 10

people who attempt suicide with a firearm die

Firearms are the most lethal method of suicide.

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/case-fatality/
Azrael, Deborah & Miller, Matthew J. "Reducing Suicide without Affecting Underlying Mental Health: Theoretical Underpinnings and a Review of the Evidence Base Linking the Availability of Lethal Means and Suicide." The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention. 2nd Edition. Ed. Rory C. O’Connor & Jane Pirkis. John Wiley & Sons, 2016. 637-662. Print.
Show Citation

Are there usually firearms in or near your home?

Select one

All firearm storage options fall into one of two types, secured either: at home or temporarily away from home.

The safest storage method is the one that will make a firearm hardest to reach during a moment of crisis.

How open are you to storing your firearms temporarily with someone else, away from your home?

Move the cursor below:

Not at all Very Open
Remember: We’re not saving any of your personal information.

There's a wide range of costs for storage options.

Some are free, some would require a one-time purchase, some have a monthly fee. We’ll review options in detail shortly.

When looking for storage options, how concerned are you about cost?

Move the cursor below:

Free option Not a concern
Remember: We’re not saving any of your personal information.

Some out-of-home storage options will ask for a background check.

How open are you to storage options that involve a background check?

Move the cursor below:

Not at all Very Open
Remember: We’re not saving any of your personal information.

With these things in mind, explore and pick options for storage

The following tables include storage options used by other firearm owners in your situation.

Out of Home Storage Options

Before bringing your firearms to any of these places, call ahead to make sure that they can store them.

Family, Friend, or Neighbor
(FREE)
  • Quick and easy to get the firearm out of the house
  • Firearm is stored with a person you trust
  • Some people are not allowed to possess firearms
  • States have different laws about person-to-person transfers
Gun Dealers
($)
  • They are a trusted part of your firearms community
  • Some shops may provide pick-up services
  • Some shops will not store firearms
  • May run a background check
    (Note: there are out-of-home options without a background check)
Shooting Range
($$)
  • They are a trusted part of your firearms community
  • A range may provide private lockers
  • Some ranges will not store firearms
  • May run a background check
    (Note: there are out-of-home options without a background check)
Commercial Storage Facility
($$$)
  • Does not require a background check
  • Renter decides who should hold the key
    **Give the key to a trusted person who will keep it safely away from the person at risk of suicide**
  • Some facilities will not store firearms
Pawn Shop
($$$)
  • Available when other options are not
  • Short term commitment
  • Firearms may be sold
  • May run a background check
    (Note: there are out-of-home options without a background check)
Police / Sheriff
(FREE)
  • May know of storage options in the community
  • Some stations may store firearms themselves
  • You may not be able to get the firearms back, please call first
  • Stations that store firearms will run a background check
    (Note: there are out-of-home options without a background check)

In Home Storage Options

These options should include storing your ammunition in a separate safe location. Be sure to take additional steps right now to make these options safest during crisis.

Lock Box
($)
  • Can transfer key to a trusted person
    **Give the key to a trusted person who will keep it safely away from the person at risk of suicide**
  • Can be stolen or taken apart
  • Too small for some firearms
Gun Safe
($$$)
  • Can store guns of many sizes
  • Strongest form of security, difficult to steal
  • Large, needs to fit in home
  • Cannot change combination on dial safes
  • Other safety measures (like a locking device or disassembly) can be added
    **Give the key to a trusted person who will keep it safely away from the person at risk of suicide**
Locking Devices
($ or FREE)
  • Easy to use with most firearms
  • Some firearms must be unloaded to use
  • Some may be easy to break
  • Key needs to be kept separate
    **Give the key to a trusted person who will keep it safely away from the person at risk of suicide**
Disassemble
(FREE)
  • Works with all types of firearms
  • Can give most parts to other people without background checks
  • Some firearms cannot be easily disassembled
Other
(FREE)
  • There may be other storage options that are not listed here. You may have options based on your job (such as military armory for service members). There may also be other community organizations near you that are able to store firearms.

If you are still unsure about what firearm storage option is best for you during this time of concern, find additional answers in the FAQs or you can read about what’s worked for other people:

See Their Stories

  • Thomas, age 45, has a girlfriend, two teenage kids, and a job – or he did, until he was laid off this week. He’s been angry and anxious. His girlfriend notices the change in his behavior and talks with him about how he’s been feeling. He tells her he’s had thoughts of suicide, and together they decide to go to an Emergency Room. In the ER, they talk with a counselor, and one of the things they discuss is home safety. Thomas’s girlfriend mentions there are guns in the house, but Thomas is uncomfortable moving his collection of firearms out of his home because he’s worried that he won’t get them back. He agrees to let her move the guns into a safe that only she knows the combination to until he’s feeling better.
  • Gabrielle, age 30, has been very depressed since giving birth to her son. One day when Gabrielle seems really down, her husband asks her if she has had thoughts of suicide. She and her husband choose to make their home safer while she starts medication and therapy. They decide that he’ll keep control of her medications. He’ll lock up her handgun in a lockbox and make sure she doesn’t know the combination. They also decide to give their hunting rifles to his brother for safe-keeping until Gabrielle is feeling better.
  • Jim’s Parents knew that Jim, age 15, had been having a tough time at school. His grades had slipped and he started isolating himself from his friends after some upsetting social media posts about him. But his parents are surprised to get a call from the school social worker who shares that, during a check-in, Jim said he wants to kill himself. They take him to a local ER where the mental health provider and doctor recommend he spend a few days in the hospital. While he’s in the hospital, Jim’s parents lock up all of the medications they have at home and take their five handguns and rifles to a local gun club to store them temporarily. They also discuss what long-term storage option will be best for their family while Jim’s still living with them.  
  • Mike, age 60, is a Veteran who works as a salesman and carries a handgun with him most days. Last week, after 25 years of marriage, his wife left him and filed for divorce. He’s been drinking more alcohol than usual and feeling hopeless. He has no family in town, but a friend he met at the VFW offers to go with him to the range to store his firearms until he’s feeling better. They both agree that it’s probably safer for him to not carry his weapon, or have access to it, during this tough time.

Next Step

You have selected the following options as your next steps for safer firearm storage:

Your Selected Firearm Storage Options

Now that we’ve talked about firearms, let’s move onto the next step towards making your household safe: medications.

Continue

Let's Talk About Medications

Medications are a common part of everyday life, whether they’re prescribed, found over-the-counter, or even for your animals. During these tough times, it’s important to think about how to keep these items safe and secured.

Are there usually medications in or near your home?

Select one

Medications are often an important part of daily life.

Some people need to take medications many times a day, while others may just need them for emergencies. Think about the medications where you live and answer the following questions:

Do any of these medications need to be taken every day?

Select one

Do any of these medications need to be taken multiple times per day?

Select one

Do any of these medications need to be accessible for emergency reasons, like for a heart condition, seizures, or panic attacks?

Select one

Are there any old or unused medications that you could get rid of?

Select one

With these things in mind, explore and pick options for storage

Storage Options

Be sure to take additional steps right now to make these options safest during crisis.

Disposal
  • Can be done quickly and easily in many cases
  • Some cities have community drug take-back programs
  • Remember that many prescriptions and medications cannot be flushed down a toilet or drain
  • May need to buy new items when risk period is over
    **Lock up any dangerous items while you decide how to dispose of items**
Locked Up at Home
  • Can leave out a small amount of daily medications or for emergencies
  • Best option for medications that need to be used daily
  • Can be done with a lock box, locked cabinet, or any secured device
  • Can transfer key to a trusted person
Stored with a Trusted Person
  • Quick and easy way to get medications out of the house
  • This person can hold either your medications or the keys to get to them
  • Best for medications that you don’t use often or need easily accessible.
    **Talk with someone in your life that you could trust to hold onto medications for you - work with them to create a system for you to get medications from them as you require them**

If you are still unsure about what safe storage options would be best for you and your family during this time of concern, find additional answers in the FAQs or you can read about what’s worked for other people:

See Their Stories

  • Maria, age 50, has seemed sad and withdrawn since the death of her father. Her husband is worried about her, and talks with her and her doctor about getting her into treatment and about how to make the home safer. One thing he’s worried about is her insulin – she has diabetes and needs to use it everyday, but he knows that taking too much can be dangerous. He talks about it with Maria and her doctor, and they decide that until she’s feeling better, they’ll keep only one day’s dose of insulin easily available. They lock up the rest of the insulin and other medications in a lock-box, and he keeps the key. Every morning, he only removes the insulin Maria will need that day.
  • Robert, age 26, lost his job and was evicted in the same week, and he’s feeling really low. He’s staying with his best friend Tom until he can get back on track. Tom lost his sister to suicide, so he recognizes some of the “red flags ” in Robert – he’s been talking about how hopeless he feels and saying he thinks everyone would be better off without him. Tom talks with Robert and together they go to an ER to get help. While Robert’s at the ER, Tom heads home to make his apartment safer: he locks up his firearm and looks for any medications. He finds one bottle of Tylenol and some leftover oxycodone from his surgery the year before, and he takes both of them to a nearby pharmacy for advice on how to get rid of them.
  • Manuel was really worried about his daughter Sammy (age 17). She has said she wants to kill herself. He gave away all of his alcohol and cleaning supplies, and stored many items (knives, razors, ropes, extra charging cables) outside of the home with only a few items in a lock-box. However, he was not sure about what to do with his over-the-counter vitamins and painkillers, since there was no “medication take-back” program nearby. After talking with his doctor, he removed all of the pills from their containers and mixed them with used coffee grounds (but his doctor said kitty litter or dirt would also work). He then put it in a sealed plastic bag and threw it away in their household trash.

Next Step

Let’s Talk About Other Hazards

Other household hazards can be hard to lock up and store during difficult times, but it’s still a good idea to talk about them. These can include things like:

Many of these items are found around the house, used everyday, or can be difficult to keep track of.

Here are some general tips and strategies for how to make your home safer during difficult times:

Limit access when and where it is possible. While it may be hard to remove all hazards from the home, even taking small steps makes a difference.
Have a list of emergency response and lifelines available. Look up some local emergency support systems that you can turn to for assistance, as well as other resources like suicide hotlines and poison control.
Next Step

Let’s Talk About Other Hazards

Other household hazards can be hard to lock up and store during difficult times, but it’s still a good idea to talk about them. These can include things like:

Many of these items are found around the house, used everyday, or can be difficult to keep track of.

Here are some general tips and strategies for how to make your home safer during difficult times:

Limit access when and where it is possible. While it may be hard to remove all hazards from the home, even taking small steps makes a difference.
Have a list of emergency response and lifelines available. Look up some local emergency support systems that you can turn to for assistance, as well as other resources like suicide hotlines and poison control.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255

If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255 (Veterans PRESS 1)

Trans Lifeline:
877-565-8860

TTY users:
1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)

Crisis Text Line:
Text HOME to 741741

These resources are free and available 24/7, 365

Clear answers and Start Over

Name someone you can ask for help today

Enter the name of someone who can help you below:

This could be a family member, friend, someone you work with, or anyone else you trust. This is someone who can help you with things like holding onto firearms temporarily, disposing of unneeded medications, holding the keys to a safe, or storing other household hazards.

You have selected the following options as your next steps for safer home storage.

Your Selected Firearm Storage Options

Review and Edit All Firearm Storage Options

Your Selected Medication Storage Options

Review and Edit All Medication Storage Options

a friend, or a family member may be able to help you with storing firearms safely.

Working through this is hard. The work you did today makes a difference.

Finish and Print

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255

If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255 (Veterans PRESS 1)

Trans Lifeline:
877-565-8860

TTY users:
1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)

Crisis Text Line:
Text HOME to 741741

These resources are free and available 24/7, 365

Clear answers and Start Over

Frequently Asked Questions

Safe firearm storage is recommended by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Q: Why is safe storage so important during crisis?

Storing dangerous items securely when someone is at risk of suicide increases the chance they will survive. It is like holding on to a friend’s car keys while they are drinking.

Q: Are there other things I should do to make my home safe?

Do a safety check of your home. Lock up or get rid of medications and other unsafe items. If you need to keep some medicine available, ask your doctor or a pharmacist for ways to store it safely.

Q: My firearms and medications are already locked up at home. Do I need to make changes if my child is at risk, not me?

Sadly, 85% of youths under 18 who died by firearm suicide used a family member’s firearm. Medications are the most common method of nonfatal suicide attempts. Your storage methods may be secure generally, but by taking extra precautions right now you can help keep your child safer during this time of heightened risk. Children are often more aware than we know and often times know where and how items are locked up. Check to make sure there are not any unlocked or loaded firearms in your home, any loose medication, alcohol, poisons, or other things that could be dangerous. Change codes or combinations, or make sure keys to storage devices are in a secure location. You can never be too careful when securing these items in your household.

Q: Where can I get home storage devices (trigger & cable locks, lock boxes, gun safes)?

You can find many of these items at gun shops, hardware stores, or sporting goods stores including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, and Walmart. You can also buy them online. Your local police, sheriff, or VA hospital may also give out locks for free.

Q: Who am I allowed to give my firearms to temporarily?

The person you choose must also be allowed to have a firearm. In the US, a person is not allowed to have a firearm if they have been found guilty of a felony, domestic violence, or if there is a restraining or protection order against them. Make sure to check your local laws for any other restrictions. The person you choose should also store the firearms safely.

Q: How do I find out my local laws?

The NRA has a website about state gun laws: www.nraila.org/gun-laws/. Friends or family who own firearms may also know about laws. A local gun shop, police department, or sheriff can help with the local laws in your state.

Q: How do I know when it is safe for me or my friend/family member to have access to these items again?

That’s hard to know. Every person’s situation is different. It is important to protect yourself, your friends and family. Remember, limiting your access to these lethal objects temporarily is a choice. If you are unsure, your counselor or doctor may be able to help you decide.

Q: If I store my guns away from home, will I get them back?

How and when you can get your firearms back will depend on the storage option that you choose. Laws and businesses can vary state-to-state. Some may require a background check, other may require you to be there during specific hours. Before you store your firearms somewhere or with someone, you should ask what will need to be done to pick the firearms back up. Have someone you trust help you call ahead and ask questions.

Q: Where can I get information how to get rid of medicines?

Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling services and your local pharmacy to see if a take-back program is available in your community. Additionally, your doctor or primary care physician may have information to provide you with when discussing safe use and disposal of medicines.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, periodically sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov

If no take-back program is available, take your prescription drugs out of their original containers, mix drugs with an undesirable substance (ex: cat litter, used coffee grounds). Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid or a sealable bag. Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers (with personal information covered or removed), in the trash.

Q: If I decide to store my firearm outside my home, what do I say to someone at a gun shop or other storage facility?

First, have someone you trust help you. This could be a family member, friend, pastor, fellow veteran, neighbor, or any other person you trust. Have this person take the guns to the storage location. But first, call ahead to the facility and ask about their ability to store firearms and any costs. This is a good time to ask what you would need to do to pick them back up. You do not need to tell them why you are looking for firearm storage.

If you choose to store your gun with the police, your local sheriff, or other law enforcement, you will still need to call ahead and ask if they store firearms temporarily. If they do, ask how long they can store firearms for and what you would need to do in order to get them back, including background checks. When you arrive, leave any firearms in the car until you have gone inside and told them you called ahead about temporary firearm storage. Have a trusted friend or family member with you.

Q: I'm worried about someone I care about. How do I talk to them about some of these issues?

These conversations are hard. You may feel like it is not your business to ask. Some people have a hard time talking about how they feel. But, these conversations can save a life. First, let your friend or family member know you care about them. Tell them why you are concerned about their access to firearms during this tough time. They may agree with you. If they do not, explain you would still like to talk about it. Be supportive, calm, and open to listening. Explain that you want to help them get through this difficult time. Ask your friend or family member if you can come up with a plan together to temporarily store their firearms in a different way. Let your friend or family member know you are here to help, and listen to their concerns. Let them know they are not alone and this is just until they feel better. You can use this tool together to explore options for storage.

Q: What if I'm worried someone is about to hurt themselves?

If you’re worried about someone, it is ok to ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide, asking will not make them do it or put the thought in their mind. If at any time you feel like your friend or family member is unsafe, take it seriously. Some warning signs are talking about harming or killing themselves, talking about wanting to die, or talking about plans to kill themselves. Follow the suggestions above about telling them that you care and want to help. You can call the suicide prevention lifeline with them (1-800-273-8255), or you can call yourself as a concerned friend or family member to get advice and local resources. Trained counselors are available 24/7, 365 days a year, in English and Spanish.

Previous Page

Need help right away?

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255

If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255 (Veterans PRESS 1)

Trans Lifeline:
877-565-8860

TTY users:
1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)

Crisis Text Line:
Text HOME to 741741

These resources are free and available 24/7, 365

Have questions about this decision aid?

The ‘Lock to Live’ decision aid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. No personal health information will be collected from users. Contact information is only collected if the user requests additional information.

For more information about the decision aid, please contact us at LockToLive@gmail.com

This decision aid was created by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (R34MH113539 - PI Betz ME). Betz ME, Knoepke CE, Siry B, Clement A, Azrael D, Ernestus S, Matlock DD. Inj Prev. 2018 Oct 13. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2018-042944.