Advance Care Planning for Gun Owners

A new tool can help gun owners and family members plan ahead for safe firearm use and transfers in the event of disability or death: The Firearm Life Plan, created by researchers at the University of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Denver. This facilitates advance care planning for guns — a way for gun owners to describe what they want to have happen to their firearms should they die or become physically or cognitively disabled and unable to use them responsibly.

Advance Care Planning for Gun OwnersThe goal is to prevent accidental injuries that can result if older gun owners forget to store firearms safely, their hearing and vision are impaired, they become seriously depressed, or a medical condition such as arthritis prevents them from handling firearms adeptly. Another goal is to ensure that firearms are transferred safely to responsible new owners when the need arises. This is a real concern because 42% of Americans 65 and older live in households with guns, according to the Pew Research Center, and more than 100 people die of firearm injuries in the U.S. each day. Among adults ages 50 and older, 84% of firearm-related deaths are suicides.

The Firearm Life Plan has four parts.

First, a list of warning signs (physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional) that might cause a gun owner to use a gun inappropriately. Among them are symptoms associated with dementia, whose dangerous nexus with firearm ownership was the topic of a KHN investigation in 2018.Up to 60% of people with dementia live in homes with a firearm, according to an overview of gun-related injury and death published in 2019.The Firearm Life Plan kit stresses personal responsibility, safety, and the importance of being prepared, themes that older owners and family members emphasized in focus groups conducted by researchers.

The second part of the guide features conversation prompts for family members and friends who might be concerned about an older gun owner and for older adults who recognize the value of planning ahead.

The third part of the Firearm Life Plan for people to create an inventory of their firearms, where they are stored (including codes to lockboxes, storage sheds, and gun safes), who should get the firearms when the owner dies or is willing to relinquish them, and when transfers should occur.

The fourth component of the guide is a “legacy” section that asks gun owners to share memories and stories about their firearms and what they have meant to them.

Contact the experienced Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC estate planning attorneys at 585-484-7432 if you have questions about advance care planning for New York gun owners.