Greenville, N.C. – June 21, 2021 – Vidant Health, the Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program (ECIPP), Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and the Greenville Police Department (GPD) are proud to announce the formation of the Pitt County Firearm Safety Coalition (PCFSC), a non-partisan, apolitical group with the goal of reducing injuries and death from firearm violence through education and safe storage techniques.
PCFSC will partner with stakeholders representing various sectors in the community, including the VA, GPD, East Carolina University, health care providers, Child Protective Services, Pitt County Health Department, faith-based groups, wildlife and hunting organizations, gun manufacturers and schools to identify solutions and impactful interventions.
“Firearm injuries have increased at an alarming rate in our state and in our region in recent months,” said PCFSC member Dr. Shannon Longshore, who serves as medical director of Injury Prevention and Pediatric Trauma for ECIPP. “We know each injury and each life lost is devastating to our community. The Pitt County Firearm Safety Coalition works together to prevent firearm injuries with proven solutions such as safe handling and storage and by addressing issues we see locally.”
Firearms are among the top five leading causes of injury-related deaths and account for half of all suicides, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Safe storage of firearms decreases the risk of accidental discharge by a child. Additionally, evidence suggests those living in households where firearms are stored and locked have a lower risk of suicide than those where firearms are stored unlocked.
“Increasing the time and distance between someone with suicidal intent and firearms can reduce suicide risk,” said PCFSC member Tiffany Chavis, senior social worker, suicide prevention coordinator, Durham VA Health Care System. “Providing education and resources to keep firearms safely secured, especially during mental health crises, is crucial in reducing the number of suicides. The Pitt County Firearm Safety Coalition demonstrates how well partners can work together for shared purpose, even if the populations differ.”
PCFSC has launched a firearm safety awareness campaign: “Lock It For Love – Firearm Safety is OUR Responsibility” to encourage the safe storage of firearms in order to reduce the number of firearm injuries in the region. GPD recently partnered with Project ChildSafe to get free gun locks, which will be distributed to local firearms owners/families.
“As police officers we often encounter people during some of the worst times of their lives, but our jobs take on an entirely new meaning when a child loses their life, especially to unnecessary gun violence,” said Chief Mark Holtzman of GPD. “The Greenville Police Department is humbled to be a partner in the Pitt County Firearm Safety Coalition to raise awareness for this very important cause. There is strength in numbers, and the safety and well-being of the members of our community is truly a collaborative effort. Together, we hope to make a difference and save lives.”