Program encourages Wisconsin gun shops to provide gun safes to prevent veteran suicides

NOW: Program encourages Wisconsin gun shops to provide gun safes to prevent veteran suicides

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -  A program in Wisconsin is trying to give veterans a safe place to store their guns in a time of crisis.

The Gun Shop Project and Safe Storage Program works with Wisconsin gun shops and ranges to provide support to the gun owner community.

Twelve gun shops in the state have a safe for people to use so far.

"It's not to take away their weapon. It's just to leave it here until things get cleared up on a personal level," Steve D'Orazio said.

D'Orazio is the owner of Max Creek Outdoors in Oregon, Wisconsin. He has had a gun safe at his gun shop for more than a year.

"I hope it would give them a peace of mind, knowing it's here in a secure building. We don't judge by any means. If they want to talk we're here to listen," D'Orazio said.

The safe gives veterans, and anyone else that needs it, a place to bring their guns if they are in a poor mental state. D'Orazio will store it for as long as needed at no cost. 

"We have had outside customers come in before I was involved in this program and we have stored their guns for personal reasons as well, as safety reasons," D'Orazio said.

The program is also referred to as "Live Today - Put It Away!" Monday, experts shared their experiences with the program so far. The event was hosted by the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in conjunction with the Southeastern Wisconsin Task Force on Veteran Suicide Prevention.

The goal is to have two participating gun shops in every county.

"There are some people who feel this might be a gun control measure. It's not a gun control measure. It's just a way to help limit the access to the means of potential suicide," Chuck Lovelace said.

Lovelace, a gun shop owner and Afghanistan veteran himself, said this program is timely as men and women come back from Afghanistan.

"It's a rough time right now for a lot of vets out there. We're wondering what we did," Lovelace said.

Dr. Bertrand Berger is a clinical psychologist at the Milwaukee VA. He said 70 percent of veterans that die from suicide use a firearm.

"Versus non-veterans, about 50 percent of people die," Dr. Berger said. "Firearms are the most lethal means people use to die from suicide."

The panel is also encouraging gun shops to provide materials to customers and staff about suicide prevention and responsible firearm ownership.

"It's a trusted place. The gun shops are trusted people with people that have firearms. It really will just hopefully save some lives," Dr. Berger said.

Right now, there is no funding to provide safes for gun shop owners. But Dr. Berger said there is a bill in the Senate this year that would do so.

To see where a gun shop near you has a safe to drop off a gun, click here

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