Launched in 2020, Hold My Guns offers gun owners an avenue to safely stow their firearms in times of personal crisis.
The brainchild of Sarah Albrecht, the nonprofit sprang to life after the suicide of a family friend. Albrecht, a devoted member of the 2A tribe, said this tragedy pushed her to ruminate on what she could do to help firearms owners facing emotional and mental tribulations -- eventually, birthing Hold My Guns.
With the Centers for Disease Control reporting suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in 2018, with firearms accounting for 50 percent of all suicides in the U.S., the importance of having a place to take guns amid a crisis is imperative to reducing suicide numbers. While friends and family can step in to secure guns, it is illegal to allow a non-family member to take possession of firearms without jumping through the hoops of background checks and transfers in some states. Coupled with mandatory reporting and red flag laws, this forces some gun owners to suffer in silence, afraid to seek help for fear of confiscation.
"We want to encourage people who need to get help, whether it's counseling or to get out of a bad situation. There's a lot of concern for being judged or losing your job if you work in a profession where you might have to carry a firearm for work. It just made me realize that there's a need for a service with the utmost professionalism that anybody could use voluntarily and discreetly," Albrecht told Guns.com in an interview. "[Hold My Guns] encourages self-governance, and it encourages people to take care of their personal situations before they become public ones. It puts the power back to the gun community to say we have a solution for these things, a non-legislative solution that protects property, and it protects people's rights. It also empowers people to get the help they need because one of the biggest barriers for people getting help for mental health concerns is the question of firearms."
Working alongside co-founder Genevieve Jones and renowned firearms attorney Joshua Prince, the organization reached out to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for advice on protecting FFLs while also giving gun owners a safe space to stow firearms. When it was all said and done, the conclusion was to utilize the current procedure for consignments but tweak it to fit the needs of the individual and FFL.
How It Works
Recognizing the need to remove firearms from their home temporarily, a gun owner will soon be able to access a full list of participating Hold My Gun FFLs. After scheduling an appointment with their nearest affiliated FFL, the gun owner visits the dealer with their firearms in tow and completes all necessary paperwork -- including a contract that protects both the FFL and the gun owner. Guns are then stored until the owner feels ready to take possession once more, wherein they return to the shop to retrieve their firearms. A background check is required, however, before the guns can be legally returned to the owner.
This process ensures that the FFL is compliant should the ATF conduct a spot check while also providing a protected place for gun owners to store prized possessions. FFLs are vetted before inclusion in the Hold My Guns network and must possess a safe to store guns while also holding liability insurance. Though FFLs are thoroughly assessed, Albrecht said Hold My Guns does not micromanage dealers' contracts, instead allowing them to tweak it to suit their needs. FFLs are able to charge nominal fees for storage and even include provisions for non-payment of fees.
"We wanted to do this in a way that doesn't micromanage the storage partners, but do it in a way that reduces liability and doesn't disrupt their regular business," Albrecht noted. "It's an opportunity for gunshops to really shine."
Pointing to circumstances like military deployment, vacations, and even house guests, Hold My Guns isn't just for those enduring difficult circumstances. Albrecht noted that the gunshops will not ask for personal information regarding why gun owners need to store their guns, and no gun owner records are logged within Hold My Guns.
"There is a myriad of reasons why people would need to store a firearm, but the reason why I set out to do it is to provide a way that would be supportive of gun owners and also protect rights," she explained. "It's a professional service, and people are treated with dignity and respect. We tell our FFLs they are not a psychiatrist behind the counter, and it's not up to them to ask, 'Do you have a mental health crisis going on in your home?' For all they know, the person's going on vacation. Those kinds of personal questions are not asked during the transaction, and I think it's really important to have that professionalism."
Locations & Storage Partners
Hold My Guns intended to launch earlier this year, but plans were thwarted by COVID -- an issue that has plagued much of the gun industry, causing shutdowns and cancellations. For this reason, Hold My Guns is still in the process of onboarding FFLs, but the group's website will be updated with a map of FFL partners once things are fully up and running.
Brannon LeBouef of NOLATAC is in the process of being vetted and greenlit by Hold My Guns. In an email to Guns.com, LeBouef said he shares the same goal as the organization and believes the responsibility lies within the gun industry to help one another.
"One thing we need is a way for those who require a safe, secure, and trustworthy location to temporarily store guns without the worry of not getting them back due to bureaucracy. There is a moral responsibility and business imperative to helping people in times of various need, to have a resource to safely store firearms," LeBouef said. "When we speak specifically about people in times of mental health crisis, we need resources that the individual trusts and feels a personal connection with. I believe that gun stores and ranges can be a place where relationships are created, fostered, and protected, so those in crisis have a place of refuge and do not have to pick between their life and their rights. I believe I can use my various firearms businesses as a way for me to personally and professionally be a resource for people."
Ways to Help
Despite being in the early stages of launch, Albrecht said the reception to the nonprofit has been positive; but said future efforts are dependent on help from the industry. The nonprofit does have a donation button on its site where supporters can financially back the group's mission, but there are other ways the industry can assist.
"We're a nonprofit and can do things because we have the support of the community. It won't work without the support of the community --without the financial support, without the buy-in from manufacturers, without the support from FFLs and community referrals," she said. "We have a donate button on our site. That's a wonderful way that people can help. If there are larger companies with donations or partnerships, that would be incredible because we wouldn't just have to rely on what's coming in from PayPal. We want to create relationships and just get the word out there."
More importantly, Albrecht stressed the importance of gun owners supporting others in the community and encouraging those struggling to get help.
"I think that it's important to note that part of being human is to go through ups and downs in life. We all need to humbly recognize that at any time that we could be going through a crisis that we didn't foresee the day before. If someone is going through a crisis, it's important to get help and not be afraid about losing rights. It's important to help support each other in a time of crisis."