Some vets are coming forward with reports that the Veterans Affairs Administration is sending out letters offering up to four free gun locks in return for information about their firearms.
As reported by the Washington Times, the form letter promises the locks provided the veteran send back a form that details their name, address, and number of guns in their homes.
“As your partner in healthcare, we are committed to keeping you and your family safe,” states the letter in part. “Gun locks have been shown to greatly reduce death and injury caused by firearms in the home. If you own a gun, we hope you will request and use a gun lock.”
These letters have reportedly been circulating for years, and have shown up in various forms with similar wording but different signatures. Daniel Hendee, director of the VA medical center in Philadelphia, purportedly signed the example obtained by the Times.
According to National Public Radio, the VA began giving out gun locks in 2008 in an effort to prevent vet suicides.
In a 2012 VA report, the agency found that suicide rates among the country’s veterans increased from an estimated 18 per day on average in 2007 to over 22 per day by 2010. Further, it found that more than two thirds of these were men 50 years of age and older who committed suicide at a rate 2-4 times higher than non-veterans in the same age group while the number of callers to the Veterans Crisis Line rose each year over a four year period.
The VA’s gun lock initiative is reportedly based on Project Child Safe. That program, sponsored in part by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, has provided more than 36 million safety kits to gun owners in the past decade, often in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies. The trade organization cites that between 2000 and 2010, when the project was started, the number of fatal firearms accidents in all age groups dropped by 22 percent.
Nevertheless, some question the motives behind the VA’s gun questions, citing fears that it could lead to a backdoor gun registry of armed veterans.