Lawmakers advance a voluntary waiver of gun rights for those at risk of suicide

Under the proposed law, it would take those who volunteer 14 days to retain their right to a firearm.

Jamie Pedersen is the bill’s sponsor. Courtesy photo

Jamie Pedersen is the bill’s sponsor. Courtesy photo

A bill giving people at risk of suicide the option to voluntarily give up their right to keep a firearm passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee unanimously. The next step for the bill is the Rules Committee before it gets a hearing in the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 5553, sponsored by Senator Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, was introduced and heard last year. Pedersen is now chair of the Law and Justice Committee starting this session.

“While we know not any one policy will solve all gun violence or prevent all gun suicides, giving people the option to voluntarily flag that they may be in crisis and they don’t want to have access to firearms during that crisis, is an important step they can take,” Rebecca Johnson with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility said at the bill’s hearing last year.

She acknowledged that people already have a legal right to turn over any firearm they already own to a trusted friend or family member. This bill would give people with suicidal thoughts another safety tool.

Jennifer Stuber, who lost her husband to suicide, is the director of Forefront at the University of Washington, an organization focusing on suicide prevention policy, education, and research. Stuber cited the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention data showing 1,129 suicide deaths in Washington state in 2015. Noting that about half of those deaths involved a firearm, Stuber said this bill was drafted on common ground and takes an important step toward suicide prevention while maintaining individual autonomy.

Keely Hopkins, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, expressed concerns about individual autonomy. She said a person who is not a risk to themselves or others could be coerced into waiving their firearm rights. She also worries that health care providers may require the waiver as a term of service or employers might require the waiver as a term of employment.

Last week, the bill passed out of committee with an amendment that prohibits employers or healthcare providers from using the waiver as a term of employment or service. The waivers are also exempt from the Public Records Act and they must be destroyed after someone retains their firearm rights.

Under the bill, someone can retain their firearm rights after a period of seven days and the Washington State Patrol has to process the waiver and retain that person’s rights within another seven days.

Hopkins requested a shorter time period in which someone can retain their rights.

“Fourteen days could be an eternity for somebody who needs a firearm for self protection,” she said.

The Law and Justice Committee heard an amendment that would change the period where the person’s firearm rights are rescinded from seven days to 48 hours. However, this amendment was not adopted because committee members believe that a mental health crisis can last for more than 48 hours and seven days is not a significant infringement on someone’s second amendment rights.

Suicide is a public health issue. If you need help please call the suicide lifeline at 800-273-8255, the teen lifeline at 866-833-6546 or text 741741 for the crisis text line. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255). Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Source: Washington State Department of Health.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

[flipp]

More in Northwest

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants in Washington state to complete a safety course. File photo
Democrats seek firearm training requirement for concealed carriers

Republican senator calls proposal ‘unconstitutional.’

Snohomish County man is first U.S. case of new coronavirus

A man in his 30s was hospitalized in Everett after contracting the virus during a trip to China.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17 at the state Capitol in Olympia. Marshall condemned Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which expelled Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican Caucus. Marshall announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat held by House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol

Criticism levied at Matt Shea investigation, Republican leadership.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (center) announced a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in a press conference Jan. 2. Debbie Warfield of Everett (left) lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012. Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki (right) lost her son to an overdose of OxyContin in 2017. They are joined by Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline (second from right), founder of the Washington Recovery Alliance. (TVW screenshot)
AG Bob Ferguson talks lawsuits, gun control

Washington state Attorney General stopped by Sound Publishing’s Kirkland office.

Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, the primary sponsor of SB 5323, speaking on the bill. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Sabio-Howell)
Proposed law adds a fee to plastic bags at checkout

Senate passes bill to ban single-use plastic bags, place 8-cent fee on reusable plastic bags.

In November 2019, Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which calls for $30 car tabs. Sound Publishing file photo
Republicans try to guarantee $30 car tabs amid court hangup

Lawmakers sponsor companion bills in the House and Senate.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County could bump up Metro electrification deadlines

Transportation generates nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2020 State of the State Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Office of the Governor)
Gov. Inslee delivers State of the State Address

By Leona Vaughn, WNPA News Service OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee stood… Continue reading

Most Read