ST. CLOUD -- Helping prevent veteran suicide is the goal of a nationwide program the St. Cloud VA is taking part in, where they're giving away free gun locks.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says the VA's number 1 clinical priority is now suicide prevention. According to VA data, the average veteran is 22% more likely to take their own life than a non-vet.

Barry Venable is the St. Cloud VA's Public Affairs Officer. He says this program has a chance to save some lives because an extra layer of safety can make all the difference for a veteran in crisis.

"For someone in crisis, a locked firearm can mean the difference between a tragic outcome and a life saved. That extra layer is very helpful, not only for veterans but for those who care for veterans."

Venable says they're not worried about running out of locks, after handing out over 6,000 last year, they hope to double that number this year.

"A gun lock is cheap compared to a life. We set a goal to hand out at least 12,000 gun locks in the St. Cloud community this year."

The VA is inviting every member of the community to help hand out the locks again this year, from businesses and charities to individuals. They also offer suicide prevention training and outreach.

An important addition that makes these gun locks unique is they have the veterans crisis line contact information printed on each one, 1-800-273-8255. If you have any more questions about the program, call the VA at 320-252-1670, and make sure to dial extension 6719.

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