The Washington state House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on an ambitious measure aimed at suicide prevention that not only has bipartisan sponsorship, but also the support of gun rights groups, it was announced today.
Sponsored by State Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33rd District), House Bill 2793 has been “in the works” for several months, according to Bellevue gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb. He is the executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and he’s been on the “ground floor” of this effort.
“The consequences of suicide are devastating to families and the figures are alarming,” Orwall said in today’s press release. “But it is the nation’s most preventable form of death, and we all have a role in averting it by forming partnerships and working together to raise awareness and limit access to lethal means.”
Via e-mail, Rep. Orwall also told this column,“To raise awareness about suicide and lethal means, this bill builds a partnership with the University of Washington, NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Pharmacy Association, so we can work together on getting the message across to gun stores and pharmacies in a way that really connects with the people who use those services.”
Gottlieb, who has been attending the 38th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas this week, has been quietly working on this effort for about a year. That revelation first became public when he was quoted by the Seattle Times and this column earlier this month. At the time, Gov. Jay Inslee had just announced some “executive actions” relating to firearms, and there were quiet concerns that his announcement might jeopardize the project.
The bill establishes a pair of Suicide Prevention subcommittees, including one that requires representatives from SAF and the National Rifle Association. With those groups represented, along with two representatives from the firearms industry, it is unlikely their work will “go south.” A companion measure will be sponsored by State Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn), this column has learned.
Another tenet of the bill requires the Department of Health to develop a “safe homes partner” certification for gun dealers, while offering a B&O tax credit for retailers certified as “safe home partners.” If the legislation passes, it will make the firearms community full partners in the effort to reduce suicides in Washington.
One of the chief proponents of the legislation is Jennifer Stuber, a co-founder of Forefront at the University of Washington. This group looks at innovative ways to prevent suicide. Stuber, an associate professor at the UW School of Social Work, lost her husband to suicide.
In her statement, Rep. Orwall noted that Washington state’s suicide rate is fourteen percent higher than the national average, and it is the eighth leading cause of death among Washingtonians. She knows the subject well, having authored other suicide prevention measures over the past five years.
Gottlieb is hopeful that with bipartisan support, this bill becomes law. Co-sponsors include Reps. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and Joel Kretz (R-Wacuonda), both with strong Second Amendment records.
“We all want to see the extremely high suicide rate in Washington come down,” Gottlieb said. “Working together in a coalition of gun rights advocates, suicide prevention experts and the firearms dealers will have a measurable impact.”
For several years, gun prohibitionists have lumped firearm suicides with criminal homicides when they talk about so-called “gun violence.” But instead of pushing new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners, HB 2793 is aimed at suicide prevention in a cooperative way, and gets firearms dealers involved in a way to help educate the public about suicide.
“This isn’t about gun control,” Gottlieb told Examiner. “It’s about preventing suicide.”
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