The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is participating in a Gun Safety Lock Program that has made thousands of free gun safety locks available to Veterans and their families.
Firearm safety has become an increasingly high priority in the Veteran population. While it is true that Veterans are well-trained in the care and use of firearms during military duty, making sure the guns in their homes are secured when they return is a family safety concern. Many Veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have young children who could potentially discover unlocked firearms.
To protect Veterans and their family members, the Under Secretary for Health signed an executive decision memo in 2008 that endorsed Project ChildSafe. The executive memo required the project be implemented in VA medical centers across the country. This program is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive firearm safety program.
“In the last few years, we have distributed a significant number of free gun locks to Veterans and their families,” said Adam C. Walmus, M.H.A., M.A., F.A.C.H.E., Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center director at recent Town Hall Meeting. “Last year, we learned of 12 Veterans who completed suicide; the majority of those Veterans killed themselves with a gun. If they had a gun lock, maybe this would have provided them a few seconds to think about what they were going to do and stopped them from doing it.”
Gun safety locks not only protect the lives of Veterans, but also their family members. Veteran privacy is respected in the gun safety lock program.
“The main idea is for Veteran family safety. The newspaper reported last week that a child accidentally shot his friend with his dad’s gun. If a gunlock had been installed on the weapon, this might not have happened,” said Suicide Prevention Coordinator Kathy Molitor, LCSW. “As a suicide prevention tool, having a gun lock reduces the impulsivity of the action. It creates an extra step that might prevent a suicide from occurring.”
Gun safety locks are available from VA primary care physicians, mental health providers, administrative officers, and patient advocates. Gun safety locks are also available at all seven Houston-area VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics.
The gun safety locks are simple to use and can be demonstrated by any member of the DeBakey VA Police Service upon request.
“It is very easy to use the locks,” said Staton. “The gun locks can also be used on many types of weapons, whether they are magazine-fed or revolvers.”
So far, the program has received favorable reviews.
“I think the program is a great deterrent,” said Staton. “It gives someone who is thinking of ending their life extra time to think about it and hopefully, realize tomorrow might be a better day.”
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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit www.houston.va.gov.