Gun Shop Safety and Storage Project

This program is facilitated by the Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program


The Gun Shop Safety and Storage Project

the Project is designed to assist gun shops in working with the gun owner community to provide 2 levels of support to help address firearm suicides:

 1) Provide materials available at your store for customers and staff on Suicide Prevention and firearms which have been developed by national organizations. 

Follow this link for our packet of materials.

2) Provide firearm storage for a low fee at your store to assist individuals who need to have their firearm outside of the home for their own safety.

You will be placed on our map so that individuals, mental health providers, family, friends can find you are the service you are willing to provide.


Instructions for anyone using the storage map:

The fire facilities noted on the map are voluntarily providing this service and can refuse to provide storage for anyone. Please call and check on whether the facility is providing the service prior to referring someone in crisis to a firearm store.

Wisconsin Firearm Storage Facilities

The locations in blue on the map are currently providing firearm storage. Call them in advance for costs, restrictions, or any other information before going in-person to the store.


TIPS for Wisconsin Firearm Retailers and Range Owners

 Your vigilance could save a life!

The leading method of suicide in Wisconsin is firearms. Recent findings suggest that often impulsive, crisis-driven suicides occur with guns purchased within that same week, usually within hours. Using your knowledge and expertise as a retailer you can often spot when a sale does not feel right, and that could reduce the odds that a gun bought at your store today is used in a suicide tomorrow.

Signs that a potential buyer could be suicidal

Note: None of these signs clearly indicate someone is suicidal, but if any are present (especially if more than one is present), use extra caution in deciding whether to proceed with the sale.

  • No knowledge about guns AND no interest in learning; asks no questions
  • Doesn’t care which gun s/he purchases/rents or seem unresponsive to your questions about the purchase
  • Gives unconvincing response when asked what s/he intends to use the gun for, or about prior experience or training
  • No interest in firearm instruction, maintenance, safety or safe storage
  • Mentions recent crisis, such as a divorce, job loss, or other setback
  • Makes comments that could suggest suicidality (e.g. “I don’t need a lot of ammunition; I won’t have the gun for long.”)
  • Looks anxious, avoids eye contact, conveys a sense of hopelessness
  • Appears distraught (shaking, fighting back tears) or under influence of alcohol

Options for responding to a potentially suicidal buyer

  • Notify store owner or manager (if applicable) if at all uncomfortable with a prospective sale or rental
  • Urge customer with little firearm experience to seek training or a class before buying
  • Ask the customer why s/he wants a firearm and how and where s/he plans to use it
  • Suggest the customer take some more time to think it over before buying
  • If s/he claims to be buying for self-defense, offer to sell pepper spray instead
  • Ask person directly if s/he is suicidal (it is well proven that asking about suicidal intent does not spur the thought, and it is well proven that asking about suicide intent and offering help saves lives); if yes, offer National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-TALK [8255]) and stop the sale
  • Notify nearby dealers that someone you denied a sale to may go to their store; notify police who can check welfare later
  • Trust your instincts, you are an expert in this field; you are under no obligation to sell a gun to anyone

“What else can I do?”

  • Display a suicide prevention hotline poster in your store
  • Distribute firearm safety brochures to buyers (The 11 Commandments) that include information about recognizing suicide warning signs and keeping firearms away from suicidal or depressed family members
  • Always sell or inquire about a gun locking or safe storage devise at point of purchase
  • If you are a firearms instructor, consider discussing suicide prevention in your classes. Safe Community can provide you with links to information to meet your curriculum.
  • Spread the word. Ask other dealers you know to visit our website to request our free materials.

Introduction letter 

Dear Firearms Dealer,

As community members and gun enthusiasts, we are all concerned about the safe use of firearms. This package of information is sent to you because we want you to join with us and the Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program, on behalf of the Southeastern Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Taskforce and, in preventing suicide.

            We are losing more than 800 people a year to suicide in Wisconsin and 1 in 5 is a Veteran. More people die by suicide using a firearm than any other means with about 70% of Veterans using a firearm to kill themselves and about 50% of non-Veterans suicides are from a firearm. Suppose the people who know guns and their customers the best, were able to recognize a person in crisis and help them? You could save lives.

            The Gun Shop Project, a campaign out of New Hampshire, was successful in reducing suicides by bringing suicide prevention specialist and firearm dealers together and designing materials to help gun dealers identify and address potentially suicidal customers who may be purchasing a firearm.

I am encouraging you to participate in this cause by accepting the materials we have sent you. I would also encourage you to offer low cost gun storage for people in crisis along with other states that have joined the Gun Storage cause like, Pennsylvania (Hold my Guns), Colorado and Washington.

            The Captain John D. Mason Veteran Peer Outreach Program is providing you these free materials. Gun shop retailers and range workers are excellent at answering questions and providing information to assist in a sale or rental; these materials work off that knowledge by:

  • Question and Answer sheet: an educational tool that explains the role of firearms and suicide prevention to you and your staff
  • Tip Sheet for Wisconsin Retailers and Range Owners: a review of how to look for potential suicidal red flags, such as a distraught customer whose comments are troubling (“I won’t be needed a cleaning kit”, or “I don’t care what caliber it is”) and ways to offer safe options
  • Posters from the National Shooting Sports Foundation: by displaying a sign in your store, customers feel like they are in a place of safety where they can pick up life-saving resource materials and feel free to talk about this issue.
  • Gun Safety the 11th Commandment— a guide for you to give your customers with every purchase that promotes general guns safety and storage
  • Certificate — a certificate appropriate for framing that certifies your gun shop is part of the Southeastern Wisconsin Gun Safety & Storage Project and “Coalition of Veteran-friendly Gun Shop Owners”. With your permission, we would list you on our website (BeThereWis.Com) as a preferred gun shop for no charge.
  • Contract for Gun Shops and Gun Owners: Sample contract for you to use for storing guns for individuals.
  • Agreement to Participate in the Program: This provides you guidance on how to check-in the guns so that they are legally in your possession according to AFT and FFL regulations and the understanding that you are volunteering to provide this service.

            Gun shops are a place where expert advice can be offered about safe storage and gun safety. Gun stores are like the family home of people who enjoy all kinds of shooting sports whether it is for hunting, target shooting, personal or home protection, or competition. There are safety guidelines that must be followed, and you can be the first line of defense to recognize someone who may be suffering from suicidal thoughts. That home needs to take care of the family by taking a leading role in suicide prevention.

Caring for family and friends who are in crisis is what a family does and gun stores can be the place of support in keeping guns out of the hands of people during a brief suicidal crisis by taking the time to talk to customers and really get a sense of their mindset when buying a firearm. This is about education and suicide prevention; something we all can believe in.

Please feel free to call or email me.



Bertrand D. Berger, Ph.D.

Program Manager, Captain John D. Mason Program

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry

Chair, SE Wisconsin Task Force on Veteran Suicide Prevention

Phone (414) 955-8910