A Guardian-Angel Community Of 2A Advocates

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When Sarah Joy Albrecht walked into Pennsylvania 2nd Amendment attorney Josh Prince’s office with her idea for “Hold My Guns,” he didn’t hesitate to ask: “Are you a gun grabber?”

A year earlier a very close friend of the Albrecht family committed suicide. 

Albrecht, age 43, daughter of a USMC Vietnam veteran, grew up with a love for liberty. Mother of five, Albrecht served as a doula and in childcare for 11 years. Her kids have grown up homeschooled and participating in shooting sports since the age of 8. In 2015, Albrecht herself obtained a Range Safety Officer certification as means to help coach in her kids’ rifle leagues.

Both she and her husband are 2A advocates, carry daily and have instilled both firearm safety and training in all their children, but Albrecht also understands the challenges of rights during a crisis. For example, in Pennsylvania, it’s a felony to hand over a pistol to someone else to hold on to — regardless of the circumstances — unless the intended recipient has a concealed carry permit.

With Hold My Guns, Sarah Albrecht’s mission is to fight for her 2A community’s rights, while also ensuring people can maintain their rights during unforeseeable circumstances. She continues to be involved politically on a national level.

In 2019, Albrecht sat across from Josh Prince and told him, “Grill me, Josh, because we can’t enter into a solution like this if people aren’t asking the hard questions about rights.”

Prince helped Albrecht reach answers on the hard questions and in turn develop FFL storage contracts and partner agreements. While attending SHOT Show 2020, Albrecht received a message from Prince: “You’re approved as a nonprofit.”

WHAT IS “HOLD MY GUNS”

Simply put, Hold My Guns is “off-site, private, voluntary firearm storage for those in need.” No government involvement. No questions asked. In fact, should someone walk into a Hold My Guns-partnering FFL and begin to explain the reason(s) why they’re dropping off their gun(s), staff on-site is trained to discourage such sharing of information. A pamphlet with resources, potentially a decision-tree, may be shared. The path forward lies with the individual — no one else.

The reasons could include a mental-health crisis, or perhaps the individual is being deployed and he or she wants to store firearms at a secure facility while overseas. It could be a family between moves locally. Perhaps a house burns down, and all that’s left is a gun safe, but a more-permanent yet-temporary storage solution is necessary.

“That’s the beauty of liberty,” said Albrecht, “not dictating what people do through coercive legislative tactics, but empowering people to make the best decision for their unique circumstances.”

At any given time, a person who has dropped off their guns can return and pick up their firearms. All that’s required: they must be able to complete and pass an ATF Form 4473.

We asked Albrecht another hard question: “What happens if someone is involuntarily committed during the time their guns are stored with Hold My Guns?” (If you’re involuntarily committed, you’re disqualified from a firearms transfers according to the 4473 questionnaire.)

Lifetime gun advocate and 2A supporter, Albrecht obtained RSO certification in 2015 to help coach her children’s shooting teams.

Albrecht didn’t miss a beat while responding: “At that point, they probably are denied the transfer,” said Albrecht. “Correct. And so it’s important again to let people know with transparency about the decision tree. A lot of people are involuntarily committed frankly because of the laziness of the crisis team that comes out, and they don’t understand.”

“So there’s an educational piece that can happen,” said Albrecht. “But if you don’t have the infrastructure in place, a person like an EMT who has the authority to do an involuntary commitment — you might not realize this.”

Should, for whatever reason, a Hold My Guns participant either become restricted or voluntarily choose not to reacquire his or her firearm(s) from a storage facility, that FFL will work with them to either transfer the firearm(s) to a non-prohibited third party or sell them under consignment.

“That’s not going to happen if their guns have been confiscated to a police station,” said Albrecht. “Or, let’s say those firearms are in storage and then you get a PFA (Protection From Abuse). Happens a lot in divorce situations. 

Any FFL interested in working with Hold My Guns should visit HoldMyGuns.org.

The gun owner really shouldn’t be a prohibited person but because of the accessibility for someone getting a PFA order, that makes them a prohibited person without due process.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel. They can continue to make payments on storage while they’re working on two things: working with a court to reverse the order and then the ATF has a challenge process.”

THE APPROVAL PROCESS FOR A PROSPECTIVE “HOLD MY GUNS” FFL PARTNER

Infrastructure is crucial and must extend beyond the walls of an FFL. Yes, a potential FFL partner needs the proper security and storage facilities but strong ties to the community are also essential. 

Ownership must have solid relationships with local law enforcement and emergency-medical services to facilitate communication and ensure proper and comprehensive care is offered at all levels for any potential Hold My Guns participant. 

Any prospective FFL must also be able to help maintain the Hold My Guns mission: Freedom, safety, and compassion. A potential participant must understand and appreciate they have the freedom to choose what is best for their situation. 

Regardless of reasons or number of firearms, an FFL partnering with Hold My Guns offers a secure, non-legislative, and private off-site storage solution.

Safety of the person as well as their loved ones and the community is also imperative. All involved are encouraged to work from a perspective of compassion — void of judgment — and respect both the rights and position of each individual. 

Working from remote locations, Albrecht and her team start with Google reviews for a potential FFL partner, then they may visit, speak with staff and ownership, and check out the facilities first-hand. 

They talk with local law enforcement and EMS contacts. A lot of determining factors require figuring out logistics, but a good sum of the final decision is as simple as a gut check: “Will this location do right by those coming to Hold My Guns during times of need?”

“Something that we have done is providing training to crisis response teams and we’ve helped them to have messaging to say if you encounter someone in crisis,” said Albrecht. “They got the call and someone is concerned. 

They can say something like, ‘Hey, sometimes we get a call like this. We check it out because we care and everything seems to be fine. But after we leave, things can go sideways and we want you to know that we’re here for you and that if you have any firearms in the house that you can take them to this local Hold My Guns location and they can store them for you.’”

“No questions asked,” said Albrecht. “And what that does is it builds trust between them and that safety team.”

THE THREAT THAT COMES FROM WITHIN

We train, gear up, and prepare to encounter and prevail over threats we may encounter out in the world, but what about the threat that can come from the inside?

“Hopefully the gun community realizes you don’t have to be someone dealing with personal struggles to need firearm storage,” said Albrecht. “You could just have a perfect storm of bad things happen where you for a moment question, ‘Can I still do this right now?’”

No level of gear, including IFAKs and tourniquets, can prepare you should you encounter the “perfect storm,” when the attack comes from inside and can seem unmanageable. During these times, people are ready to help.

According to the 2022 Annual Report produced by the Kansas Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition, the nationwide suicide death rate per 100,000 people has increased 50 percent in the past 20 years. 

In Sedgwick county itself, the rate has doubled, from 11 in 2001 to 22 suicides per 100,000 people in 2022. Death by firearm remains the leading cause, with numbers double that of all other methods combined. For 49 percent of deaths, the decedent had a known history of mental illness (with depression being most commonly noted, and anxiety second). Prior to their fatal attempt, 44 percent had suicidal ideations.

“There are three things that has to happen before someone will kill themselves,” said Aaron Sutton, Trauma Outreach and Injury Prevention Coordinator at Wesley Medical in Wichita, Kansas. “One, they have to feel like they’re a burden. Two, they have to feel like they are disconnected from their brotherhood. And then three, they have to overcome their fear of death. And when you take away the option of firearms, you potentially cancel out number three.”

Sutton worked with Albrecht and her team to bring Hold My Guns to Wichita. With over 20 years of EMS and trauma-bay experience, Sutton has been witness to the aftermath of many suicides. “Who we were seeing harm themselves are firearm owners,” said Sutton. 

“And not everyone has a friend that’ll hold onto your guns for you. Or not everyone wants to go to their friends and admit they have a problem. So we wanted to give an anonymous option to responsible firearm owners to give them a pause, a second to a breathe, and know their guns are somewhere they trust.”

Hold My Guns also partners with POM Industries to spread awareness surrounding the use of pepper spray as a non-lethal self-defense tool. Pepper spray is one of several non-lethal alternatives during firearm storage.

Malachi Winters, age 46, is a social worker with Wichita’s Community Mental Health Crisis Center and has over 20 years of EMS experience. “The vast majority of suicide attempts are done in the heat of the moment when individuals are emotional. They’re not thinking straight. They’re distressed. And when you talk to survivors of suicide attempts, almost all of them, even in the space of like 10 minutes after the attempt, they regret it,” said Winters. “The problem with firearms is the chances of surviving a suicide attempt is so much lower than almost any other method.”

Winters also works daily to promote Hold My Guns to first responders and anyone in need. “It’s not a matter of constitutionality,” he said. “It’s not a matter of legality. It’s not a matter of whether or not somebody should be allowed to have a gun. What we are trying to do is tailor our therapy based off of the individual in the moment, right now.”

According to Winters, those willing to consider lethal-means restriction methods while also putting in the intensive work, meeting with a licensed professional twice a week, may see significant improvement in a short amount of time. “When people are in that space,” he said, “the majority of them are able to get out, get out of that space and back to a functioning life and get their guns back in the home in about a month.”

Ken Grommet is a retired U.S. Marine and former police officer and now the co-owner of Range 54 in Wichita. Alongside his business partner, Kerry Cox, the two officially partnered with Hold My Guns in summer 2023 and made their storage facilities available for the local community.

“Just because you’re having a mental crisis, it doesn’t take your rights away,” said Grommet. “The only way it becomes a problem is when you don’t recognize it, you don’t do anything about it, and then you become adjudicated. And an adjudicated person for a mental problem is the prohibitor of owning it. So we’d like to intervene before that.”

Aside from participating in the Hold My Guns, program, Ken Grommet, Range 54 co-owner alongside Kerry Cox, provides various hands-on firearm and first-aid training to suit various clientele. They have also given away over 2,500 car gun safes in the past three years.

Since partnering with Hold My Guns, Range 54 has accepted dozen of firearms for storage. “We have had people come in and use it,” said Grommet, “and the person who dropped them off was the same person that picked them up, which means that it would be a success story.”

All Range 54 staff is trained extensively in both firearms but also suicide prevention through a program hosted by the local VA. Same as Albrecht, Grommet wants to be able to teach people how to be their own first responder — both to any physical threat but also from within. “Why wouldn’t you do something that could help?” said Grommet. “And we have the means, you know? We have the capability. We’re right here, and I just think it’s a good thing to be able to help the community out.”

THE CHALLENGES FACING HOLD MY GUNS

Similar to why Josh Prince asked Albrecht his initial question, people may distrust the Hold My Guns concept and mission. “I’m glad for that because I don’t want people to support something that is undermining rights,” said Albrecht. 

“I think that we have now established a reputation that people know who we are; they’ve seen us over the past couple years. We just received a donation from Smith & Wesson, $10,000, and have sponsorship partners like POM, Mantis, and H&K.

“So you know as we grow and we work with partners that have more recognition in our community, it builds trust.”

Another challenge remains financial-based, as Albrecht and her team are all volunteers. Still, there are attorney fees for clarifying legalities, policies, and establishing state-compliant contracts at each participating FFL location. 

“The reality is that I want to be able to do this and build the team that we can actually support this, so sponsorships and donations help.”

Another major obstacle: gun control. “It is affecting our business,” said Albrecht. “We’ve had to turn away people in need because of state legislation and the White House even just put out, they’re planning to ban assault weapons.”

With the assault-weapon ban and magazine restriction in Washington State, for example, Hold My Guns had to turn away a veteran who owned 40 firearms and was in the middle of a housing transition. “We had to tell them, ‘We can’t help you,’” said Albrecht, “and we tried to help them find other solutions, but it’s about a $150,000 fine for any FFL that has any of these items in their inventory.

“My passion is not just saving lives and protecting property — it’s also preserving rights,” Albrecht said.

Despite the obstacles, the challenges, the countless unpaid and thankless hours and the sleepless nights, Albrecht remains focused. “It sounds like a lot of homework, and it is,” she said. “But when your kids come to you and say, ‘We love Liberty. We have a healthy appreciation for firearms. We know why people use them for self-defense. We appreciate shooting sports. Our friend is dead …’

“Your mama bear comes out,” said Albrecht, “and you find a way to make it work.”

In 2023, 118 firearms (compared to five in 2022) were stored across eight FFL partners. To learn more or find a Hold My Guns FFL near you, visit HoldMyGuns.org. Additional resources, including a downloadable PDF on personal safety, are also available on the site.

If you require storage and don’t have a participating Hold My Guns FFL nearby, there are options. 

“We do work with a few FFLs that have warehouses that don’t necessarily want their information out on our website,” said Albrecht. “And so if there’s a situation where someone doesn’t have a partner near them, they can always take their firearms to an FFL and they can ship them to one of our partners.” To learn more, email [email protected].

A COMMUNITY OF GUARDIAN ANGELS

If you’re experiencing a crisis right now, then hear this. As a 2A community, we’re stronger together, but we can’t be together if you’re gone. We got your six. You got ours, but not if you’re six feet under. No matter the battle, no one fights alone. We have options, and right now you have someone thinking about you, whether you know it or not. Let’s wake up and take it another day at a time. Healing — same as a song from an antique music box — has its high notes. It has its lows. But given a turn, it goes on. 

RESOURCES

ANY EMERGENCY: Dial 911 (An operator should answer immediately and direct you immediately to direct resources and care.)
SUICIDE AND CRISIS LIFELINE: Dial 988 (You could be waiting on hold a few minutes.)
VETERAN CRISIS TEXT LINE: Text “838255” for veterans, service members and family members
Reach out to the author on Instagram (@WildGameJack) with any questions or comments.

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