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To lower military suicides, Pentagon panel advises waiting periods on guns and more

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(WASHINGTON) — A Pentagon advisory committee is recommending waiting periods and other gun restrictions for service members to help reduce suicides in the armed forces.

Among the nearly 130 recommendations in a report last week from the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee are: a seven-day waiting period for gun purchases on bases and other Department of Defense property as well as a four-day waiting period for ammunition purchases there, a raise in the minimum age for buying firearms there, from 18 to 25, and the repeal of a 2013 law that bars the military from tracking gun purchases.

Though there was a drop in 2021, suicides in the military have been gradually increasing since 2011, according to the Department of Defense, mirroring a nationwide trend.

In 2021, 519 service members died from suicide, a decrease from 582 in 2020, the Pentagon has said.

The Defense Department noted last year that the suicide risk is greatest for young enlisted men.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the creation of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee in March 2022.

According to the new advisory report, 66% of active-duty suicides, 72% of reserve suicides and 78% of National Guard suicides involve firearms.

Experts like Margaret Kelley, a professor at the University of Kansas who has researched gun ownership trends and more, said that some in the military community, specifically veterans, support more restrictive gun measures across the board.

“In our research, we found that veterans supported a ban on the military-style weapons and high-capacity clips and also waiting periods,” said Kelley, who co-authored How do veterans view gun policies? Evidence from the Guns in American Life Survey.

“Our research shows that it’s combat veterans in particular who are more likely to be in favor of some of these restrictions,” Kelley said. “There’s something about the particular military experience that changes these attitudes.”

Of all gun violence deaths in the U.S. in 2023, suicide is the prevailing cause at more than 3,800 as of Tuesday, according to the Gun Violence Archives, which compiles and validates data from thousands of sources, according to its website.

For additional resources relating to veteran suicide prevention, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website, or call 988 and select 1 to talk to speak with a crisis responder.

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