Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this morning signed an ambitious suicide prevention and education bill that was unusual in its development and perhaps surprising to some in its final form, because it involved input from two major gun rights organizations including the Second Amendment Foundation, and will rely heavily on these groups to make it work.
There was, however, a partial veto on Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2793, the “Suicide Awareness and Prevention Education for Safer Homes Act,” sponsored by State Rep. Tina Orwall. According to the Governor’s office, Sections 3 and 9 were vetoed.
The legislation is aimed at suicide prevention. Both the National Rifle Association and Bellevue-based SAF were key players in development of the legislation, and a representative of one of those groups will co-chair a subcommittee of the Safer Homes Task Force that is created by the new law.
The bill also creates another subcommittee of the task force that includes pharmacists. Both subcommittees will come up with proposals for literature and signing that alerts people to the problems with suicide.
While gun control organizations describe themselves as “gun safety” groups, genuine gun safety expertise comes from people with hands-on experience. NRA, for example, fields tens of thousands of volunteer firearms instructors. Gun dealers and range operators have day-to-day experience with firearms safety.
In an Op-Ed published by the Seattle Times on Tuesday, Rep. Orwall noted, “We knew this would be challenging terrain to navigate, so we sought out new partnerships. Last summer, in collaboration with the UW, we reached out to the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation…” in addition to pharmaceutical organizations, survivors and one gun control group, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
One of those people was SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb, a nationally-recognized gun rights advocate and author. He was traveling Thursday morning and not able to attend the bill signing, but he quietly – meaning very much under the radar – worked on this project for several months.
Washington has a suicide rate that is 14 percent above the national average. Three out of five gun-related deaths in the state are suicides. That’s a fact, but instead of blaming firearms, this new law and the people who crafted it recognize that firearms professionals could be critical to the success of the prevention effort.
The legislature evidently thought so, too. The bill passed the House 93-4 and after the Senate passed an amended version 47-0, it went back to the House where they concurred 94-2.
In a statement for the press today, Gottlieb praised state lawmakers for the overwhelming support shown to the bill.
“This is and always has been about preventing tragedies,” he said, “not infringing on anyone’s civil rights. Because this involves an important education effort, SAF was able to participate from the outset.”
Gottlieb noted that the process that went into creating this legislation “clearly demonstrates that the firearms community is not only approachable, but is willing to participate in any serious discussions about a problem that affects us all.” He added that because firearms groups and professionals that “are the real gun safety experts…it is only proper and prudent for us to be involved.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with Rep. Orwall and Prof. Stuber on this project,” he said. “Hopefully there will be more collaborative efforts that focus on problems we can help solve together. I’m delighted that the bill was almost unanimously supported in both the House and Senate.”
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