Every year in New Jersey, 150 to 200 people take their own lives with a firearm.

Efforts are now moving forward to reduce that number substantially.

Mike Anestis, the director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center and an associate professor at the Rutgers University School of Public Health, said while cracking down on illegal gun trafficking can help to reduce the number of firearms in the state and lower gun suicide rates somewhat, he believes more steps need to be taken.

“The problem is we have a lot of folks who already have firearms, have had them for a long time and are comfortable using them, and for a variety of reasons maybe are less comfortable telling us when they are upset and seeking help for it,” he said.

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“Most folks who die by suicide using a firearm have owned that firearm for a decade or more and were not identified ahead of time as being at high risk for suicide.”

Suicide rates using guns are much higher in states that do not have tough gun laws like New Jersey.

Anestis said one way to lower firearm suicides is by promoting safe firearm storage in people’s homes “and providing a safe and legal path for folks to store firearms outside their home during times of stress, the same way you let somebody hold your keys temporarily when you’ve had too much to drink.”

He said the idea would be to give gun owners a path “for having those firearms in your home maybe get a little further away when someone in that home is having a difficult moment.”

Anestis said public ad campaigns could be created to encourage people who own firearms to get them out of the house temporarily if they’re struggling with a mental health issue, but his Center is also working to promote the creation of gun storage maps in New Jersey.

He said this would entail creating partnerships with firearm retailers and law enforcement agencies who would consider, but not necessarily guarantee, storage of firearms.

Anestis stressed this idea would be a temporary way for legal gun owners to decrease the risk of any sudden deadly activity with their firearm, not any kind of an attempt to remove the firearm permanently.

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