A suicide in gun ranges are unheard of — or so Anthony Colandro, owner of Gun for Hire range thought. But it did happen at his range, and that’s why he had his entire staff get training on mental health first aid.
“We have life savers manual, suicide prevention. They do appreciate it. People will pick it up. Some will read it and put it back. Others will take it and put it in their pocket.”
Suicides across the United States account for 2/3 of the total gun deaths in the country. New Jersey, with its stifling gun restrictions, has a suicide rate that is half the national average.
“While both sides are fighting over the innate object, we want the gun, we’re allowing this stigma with mental health and not treating it. People are afraid to report any mental health issues — if they’re depressed, going through a divorce or lost their job — because there’s a stigma attached to it.”
“And in New Jersey, any hint of any mental duress, they lose their guns.”
Ranges are a safe environment for gun owners to ask for help and resources, with absolutely no judgements. Dr Gianni Pirelli, a forensic psychologist, wants to reduce suicide rates by training range staff to spot warning signs — thereby, bringing awareness to the front lines.
“If they come in solo, if they seem very irritable, we give them a brochure from the American Society for Suicide Prevention, we give them Dr Pirelli’s card and we tell them they can’t shoot here.”
Dr Pirelli also mentioned how the move has been gaining ground and has been seeing positive results.
“I get calls on a somewhat regular basis of people saying, ‘You know, I really need to see a therapist who is going to be OK with me being a gun owner’.”
This collaboration has been happening more frequently — the New Jersey Second Amendment Society has been working on getting more mental health resources to gun ranges, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation has been coordinating with the American Society for Suicide Prevention.
“I guarantee you we’ve probably, 100 people in the past 5 years we’ve identified something, and we didn’t let them shoot. I also set up a system where all of the commercial ranges in New Jersey, we communicate with each other via an alert.”
ReloaderzNJ, a range near Colandro’s own Gun for Hire, recently used the alert system when someone in the parking lot started talking about doing himself harm. They also employed Pirelli to train their staff before opening their range.
“Before we even opened, we already experienced something, but it wouldn’t have played through because of the way our system is,” said Michael Nylen, co-owner of ReloaderzNJ.
“I like to keep all the rules of our second amendment in place, as well as safely put that gun in that person’s hand. And how do we do that? We have to screen. We have to screen, we have to look, we have to be aware,”
said Cheryl Nylen, co-owner of ReloaderzNJ.
Other gun ranges throughout the country are not practicing the same safety protocol, though.
“I don’t blame them really because people in my field, medical and mental health professionals, a lot of times are not trained, and they don’t understand gun ownership, or the gun culture or gun ranges, and we’re not connected. So how do you do that? You have to come here, and we have to learn from each other. Both sides have to come together,” Pirelli said.