State legislators in Wisconsin are proposing a bill that would allow people to legally ban themselves from owning handguns.
The legislation would enable those at risk of suicide to apply to the Wisconsin Department of Justice to voluntarily revoke their Second Amendment rights for one, five, or twenty years.
“I feel very strongly that we will be saving lives in the state of Wisconsin,” the author of the proposal, Rep. Melissa Sargent, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “If one life is saved because of this legislation, it would be a win.”
The official text of the Firearm Self-Exclusion Program has yet to be released, but Sargent believes she will face stiff opposition from the pro-gun community. She even told the WSJ that critics of the bill have already called it an “attack on Second Amendment rights.”
“This is not a bill that will take away anyone’s guns. This is a voluntary program,” she said. “We’re providing them with a solution, with empowerment … to make them safer.”
Individuals can only restore their right to own a handgun by applying to the DOJ with the assistance of a psychiatrist or psychologist. The details of this process are still unclear, so a number of questions remain unanswered.
Sargent has not indicated whether exceptions will be made to the one-year minimum for those who rescind their rights during an isolated episode but are otherwise mentally stable.
She has also not said what kind of standards a psychiatrist must use to determine the mental state of their patient. Can a psychiatrist indefinitely revoke someone’s constitutional right without sufficient cause by refusing to provide “assistance”?
Under current federal law, only those who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” are prohibited from owning firearms. Under this Wisconsin legislation, a psychiatrist may be able to rescind Second Amendment rights for a mental disorder far less serious.
More than 45 percent of suicide victims in Wisconsin used firearms, according to the state Department of Health Services. Wisconsin’s rate of 14.59 suicides per 100,000 people in 2015 was higher than the national average of 13.26, according to the CDC. In 2016, 877 Wisconsinites died by suicide, making it the 10th-leading cause of death in the state.
Sargent’s proposal, according to the WSJ, was modeled after gambling self-exclusion programs in other states like Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa.