States Are Passing a Voluntary Gun Law That Is Preventing Suicides
Katrina Brees, shared the story of her mom who struggled with bipolar disorder and unfortunately took her own life. She
Katrina Brees, shared the story of her mom who struggled with bipolar disorder and unfortunately took her own life. She explained, “I was shocked to find out that her buying a gun was so easy and completely legal. It was just one button away on her phone.” Adding in, “The next morning, I went straight into action.”
Brees’ solution is simple. She’s advocating for a Do-Not-Sell List that people [like her mother] can voluntarily add themselves to, preventing them from impulsively purchasing a gun. Bree revealed, “There are almost no barriers to buying a gun in Louisiana. Every year we have more than 600 suicides here, and two-thirds are by firearms.”
And, her idea seems to be catching on. So far Washington State, Virginia, and Utah have implemented the Voluntary Do-Not-Sell List. Anyone can add their name to it and can also file a request for their name to be removed following a 21-day waiting period. States including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, and Wisconsin are all considering similar laws.
Brees shared, “My mom had fought so hard to stay alive. She had voluntarily checked herself into psychiatric hospitals three times in the months before her death when she thought she might harm herself.” However, Brees explained, “because she went there voluntarily, there was no way for her to prevent herself from buying a gun. Part of the commitment of putting yourself in there is to separate yourself from lethal means.”
Brees continued her story, “She worked with her psychiatrist; she took medication that had tremendous side effects. She had doctors and family totally committed to her. She literally said, ‘I don’t want to die.’ She was excited about her new grandbaby. I think one of the saddest pieces of suicide misinformation is for us to think these people wanted to die. But the impulsivity of this really became obvious because this does not feel like the choice she really wanted.”
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The laws haven’t been implemented long enough to do an evaluation on the three states yet, but mental health experts are all in agreement that “delaying access to firearms in a time of crisis is a life-saving strategy,” according to goodgoodgood.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Education Association and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education are all also in support of the bill.
Of course this bill comes with objections, the most common being that suicidal people will just find another way. Although, majority of suicide attempts occur during a short-term crisis with not much planning. And, 90 percent of those who survive their attempt, do not die by suicide later therefore, reducing access to lethal weapons means saving lives.
Fred Vars, a University of Alabama at Birmingham law professor, who has bipolar disorder and has experienced suicidal ideation explained, “So much about suicide is impulsive. [These laws are] about people helping themselves versus the government saying, you can’t have a gun. I don’t want to die, and me signing up for this list would reduce the probability of me dying.”
Katrina Brees actually tested out the process for herself in Washington State. She signed herself up for the Do-Not-Sell List at the Skamania courthouse and found it to be an easy process. The only downfall to it is that the law, of course, only works statewide.
Brees is very passionate about getting federal legislation. She as well as mental health experts are optimistic that allowing people to sign up in schools or at doctors’ offices would increase participation in the law.