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States May Start Registries For People Saying They Are Suicide Risks

As lawmakers and mental health advocates try to stop the rise of suicides by firearms, a handful of states have a new idea: Register yourself as a suicide risk so you can’t buy a gun irrationally. While mass shootings get more attention, the smaller-scale tragedy of gun suicide represents a majority of firearm deaths in most states. Suicides made up 57% of all U.S. gun deaths in the past five years, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention preliminary data analyzed by Stateline. Many state laws are focused on gun violence, including weapon storage, waiting periods, and red flag laws aimed at removing guns from those who might be a danger either to themselves or others. Since 2018, Utah, Virginia, and Washington state have passed Donna’s Law, registries for those who think they could become suicidal and don’t want the ability to buy a gun on a whim. Named for Donna Nathan, who took her own life in 2018 in New Orleans with a handgun she had just purchased, Donna’s Law is promoted by Nathan’s daughter, Katrina Brees.

Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation this spring. Sponsor Delegate David Moon said the measure would allow people “... to place themselves on a list to prevent themselves from being able to purchase a regulated firearm..." U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat, and John Curtis, a Utah Republican, sponsored legislation last year, but it did not advance beyond the House Judiciary Committee. Jayapal plans to reintroduce the bill. States also are trying other options, such as firearms safety training in Hawaii or restricting a person’s access to firearms in North Carolina after a court finding that they’re a danger to themselves or others. The most effective methods of preventing gun suicide have been strict licensing requirements, said Joshua Horwitz, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University, because the rules usually include waiting periods and the ability to screen for mental health issues.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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