Reducing the Suicide Rate in the United States Air Force with an "Extreme Risk" Military Protection Order Law
Johnson, Jeffrey Rial
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Over the past 20 years, the Air Force has fought suicide in its ranks through leadership, coordination, communication, camaraderie, education, training, mental health treatment, community engagement, and suicide data analysis and reporting. However, despite its best efforts, the suicide rate in the Air Force continues to climb. In 2019, 137 Air Force personnel committed suicide, representing a 33% increase over 2018 and a surge to the highest total in three decades. This policy proposal augments existing Air Force suicide prevention programs by directly addressing the most common and most lethal means of suicide in the military—firearms. The recommendations include: 1) requiring airmen to register privately-owned firearms with their unit commanders to give them an awareness of which airmen have access to firearms, 2) enabling unit commanders, colleagues, family members, and friends to petition for an “Extreme Risk” Military Protection Order (MPO) to temporarily take away an airman’s firearms if he or she is a risk to themselves or others, and 3) developing policies, procedures, training, and communications to implement the first two proposals without negatively affecting the career prospects of the petitioners or respondents of Extreme Risk MPOs.