New research published this week in an issue of the JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that gun control laws requiring background checks for even temporary transfers of firearms may hamper suicide prevention efforts, according to Fox News.
It’s an assertion that got immediate attention from Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. Earlier this year, he championed legislation aimed at suicide prevention in Washington, where two years ago, he battled passage of Initiative 594, which now requires so-called “universal background checks” on gun transfers in the Evergreen State. Those checks so far do not appear to have prevented a single crime, and only one person has so far been charged with violating the law for allegedly supplying a firearm that may have been used in a homicide.
The irony of this is stunning. Those who remember the battle over I-594 back in 2014 recall that gun rights activists insisted that “the Devil is in the details,” but those concerns were dismissed with condescension. Now, however, the argument that “if it saves just one life” suddenly rings hollow. What if this law prevents saving one life?
According to the article, “In some states…firearm laws may affect the ability to easily transfer a gun temporarily to reduce suicide risk. In particular, universal background check (UBC) laws—which require a background check whenever a gun is transferred, even by non–gun dealers—may also apply to temporary transfers intended to reduce suicide risk.
“Regardless of support or opposition to the concept of UBCs,” the article added, “these laws may have unintended consequences for suicide prevention efforts.”
The research detailed in the JAMA article was done by Jon. S. Vernick, JD, MPH of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, plus Alexander D. McCourt, JD, MPH; Marian E. Betz, MD, MPH; Sara Brandspigel, MPH and Carol W. Runyan, PhD, MPH.
They suggest changing the laws to allow for temporary transfers or storage of firearms by licensed firearms dealers, law enforcement, family members or friends.
Gottlieb, who now serves on a subcommittee created by the suicide prevention law, believes that Washington’s law needs to be amended to allow for temporary transfers without background checks, and he pointed to people with concealed pistol licenses as an example. CPL holders have already gone through a background check to obtain a carry license. They shouldn’t have to go through another check just to temporarily take possession of a friend’s firearms, especially if it helps prevent a tragedy.
The Fox report alluded to other research published in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine that suggested, “in order to reduce gun suicides, health care professionals need to work with, and not against, gun shop owners, firearm instructors and gun rights stakeholders. Rather than squaring off against one another, they say, these groups should ‘jointly devise strategies to put time and distance between a suicidal person and a firearm.’”
That’s exactly what Gottlieb and others who supported the suicide prevention legislation are working on. The legislation was sponsored by State Rep. Tina Orwall and backed by Jennifer Stuber, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and faculty director of Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention. The bill passed almost unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate.