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How Defense Act Addresses Military Suicides and Issues of Conscience - NYTimes.com


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But many other significant provisions are tucked into the act’s deepest recesses. Several deal with the issue of military suicides. One of these authorizes commanding officers or health professionals working for the military to ask a service member about privately owned firearms, if they believe that the person is at risk of hurting himself or others.

That provision clarifies a provision inserted into the 2011 defense authorization act, at the urging of the National Rifle Association, that prohibited the Defense Department from collecting information from service members about lawfully owned firearms kept at home. That measure was construed by some commanders to prohibit them from even asking troops whether they owned a firearm.

“This revision is about conversations on safety, not about confiscation,” said John Madigan, senior director of public policy for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which pushed for the provision. “It is about saving lives.”

The N.R.A. said it did not oppose the revision.

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