Washington State legislators have passed a bill being called an innovative prevention measure to reduce the number of suicides by firearms. The bill allows individuals the opportunity to have their rights to firearms suspended voluntarily if they feel they are at risk for suicide.
The concept of allowing individuals suffering from depression and other forms of metal illness was thought up by Frederick Vars, a law professor who has been writing about the legalities of mental health and firearms, and who was himself diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 31.
Vars says that because of his disorder, he has contemplated suicide, and wishes to help others who may have similar mental health problems voluntarily give up their rights to firearm ownership. Then, after the crisis has passed, allow their firearms to be returned to them.
“I instantly believed it would appeal to a lot of people who have mental health problems like mine,” he said. “It doesn’t take anyone’s liberty away from them, it just gives everybody a new type of liberty — the liberty to control gun purchasability. To me it’s about respecting the autonomy of people, even though they may have mental illness,” Vars added. “They’re still independent agents and ought to be able to control their own destiny.”
How it works:
A person concerned their current, or future, mental state may lead to making an impulse decision to commit suicide, can fill out a short “Voluntary Waiver of Firearm Rights” form, then present that form to any County Clerk’s office in the state of Washington along with a photo ID.
When the person filling out the form feels that they are in a better state of mind, they are allowed to have the waiver reversed no more then 7 days after the filing of the form.
The law extends to cover gun owners who may be worried about being targeted due to their submitting the form. According to the Voluntary Waiver of Firearm Rights:
“Within seven days of receiving a revocation of a voluntary waiver of firearm rights, the Washington state patrol must remove the person from the national instant criminal background check system, and any other federal or state computer-based systems used by law enforcement agencies or others to identify prohibited purchasers of firearms in which the person was entered, unless the person is otherwise ineligible to possess a firearm under RCW 9.41.040, and destroy all records of the voluntary waiver.”
Meaning, the signing of the waiver places the gun owner in the national data bases which track individuals who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. Then, no more then 7 days after receiving the gun owners revocation of the waiver, the State Police are required to delete the information about the gun owner from those systems. Unless of course they were not allowed to purchase firearms in the first place.
Additionally, signing the waiver is not allowed to be brought back against the gun owner and used in anyway for legal proceedings, or as a condition to receive employment, benefits, or other services to ensure that there are no further repercussions.
By design, the waiver is intended to be confidential, and may not be used against a gun owner who signs it, as all records are to be destroyed once the gun owner decides to re-instate their right to firearm ownership. But at least 7 days must pass before this is allowed.
John Doe decides he is at risk of suicide and wishes to prevent himself from being able to purchase a firearm in a moment of impulse. He then travels to any County Clerk’s office, firearm or ammunition dealer, or health care provider (who are required to have the form on hand,) fills out and submits the form.
Mr. Doe is then unable to purchase a firearm for the next seven days. If he wishes to re-instate his rights to firearm ownership, he must wait the full seven days before submitting a revocation letter. State Police then have one week (7 days) to delete all records of the initial waiver from data bases and destroy the waiver itself.
Mr. Doe is then able to purchase a firearm again when he wishes.
“It’s kind of an experiment. Nobody’s done it before. There’s very little downside to making it available to people as an option,” said senator Jamie Pederson, the primary sponsor of the bill which passed with bi-partisan support on March of 2018 and went into effect in January of this year.
According to The Trace, of the more the 3500 firearm deaths in the State of Washington, 75% were suicides.
What do you think of this bill to reduce the number of suicides in the state of Washington? Leave a comment below to let us know.