The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced its Gun Safety Matters Challenge winners on July 9.
The Gun Safety Matters Challenge is a contest where people submit inventions that work to help veterans and their families prevent suicide, injury or accidents from firearms.
The contest is open-innovation and aims to develop cost-effective solutions for firearm storage, among other things.
The VA is working with the three contest winners along with other resources to learn more about the creations.
The winners include:
First place winner: Barret Schlegelmilch, of the Leaders for Global Operations Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He submitted the DuoBox, a mechanical device that provides an inexpensive, secure and reliable means of weapon storage.
It also encourages responsible weapon access with two people present.
Second place winners: Timothy Oh, Christine Tate and Jorel Lalicki of Vara Corp. for the VARA Firearm Security Response.
Their invention is an "open-environment" biometric safe that revolutionizes access time to a securely locked firearm.
Fingerprint authentication and other features allow total control over specifying user access for firearm owners and family members.
Third place winners: Kathleen Gilligan and Leslie Bodi with the Sentinel.
They came up with a mobile application that helps veterans connect with their peers using an innovative "buddy system," so in a crisis they know they are not alone.
Sentinel can also control Bluetooth-enabled gun lock boxes and includes unique features, such as a time-lock and automated emergency calling.
Preventing suicide among veterans is one of the top priorities of the VA. According to the VA, in 2015, 67 percent of veteran deaths were by firearms and both male and female Veterans have an increased risk for suicide.
“The Gun Safety Matters Challenge is an innovative example of how VA is continuing to address Veterans’ needs through strategic partnerships with community and federal strategic partners.” Peter O’Rourke, VA’s Acting Secretary, said.
Dr. Carolyn Clancy, executive in charge of VA’s Veterans Health Administration views this contest as an opportunity to better suicide prevention all around.
“Suicide is a serious and preventable public health problem and research suggests that most suicidal crises pass within minutes to hours,” Clancy said.
“Through innovation and invention, if these ideas can build time and space between the impulse to attempt suicide and the ability to do so, for just a few hours, we will save lives.”
Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a veteran in crisis — should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.