Individuals struggling with mental health issues could voluntarily join a “no guns” list to prevent them from purchasing a firearm under a bill now before the Utah Legislature.
Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) sponsored the legislation, known as HB267, to help reduce the number of suicides in the Beehive State.
“While they’re in a better state of mind, they can say, ‘You know what, I’m going to let a friend hold my firearms until I get feeling better, and I don’t want to be able to, in a moment of weakness, purchase a firearm.’ So they could then put their name on that list,” Eliason explained to KSL.com.
To join the list, an individual would print out the requisite form posted to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification website and submit it to local law enforcement.
The purchase ban would expire after six months if the person did not request an extension. Individuals can also petition to have their buying rights restored after the first 30 days if they change their minds or begin to feel better.
Concealed carry rights would also be suspended under the same rules.
“This is completely voluntary and there is a mechanism where they can have a name removed,” Eliason said, referencing the 30-day window.
“We also know that about half of our annual suicides in Utah are from firearms, and we know that suicide is impulsive,” he added.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, indicated that his group supports the measure.
“The last thing a person in crisis needs is access to a firearm or some other lethal means,” Aposhian told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We support this legislation at the Utah Shooting Sports Council because it is completely voluntary, self-revokable, private and confidential.
One local gun-control advocate criticized the bill, arguing that it won’t have “a measurable impact.”
“I don’t think this bill is going to save any lives. I hope I’m wrong, but It’s voluntary,” said Nancy Halden, a board member for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.
“What I think this bill is designed to do is to provide political coverage for Republicans in Utah to claim that they’ve done something about Utah’s No. 1 gun issue, which is suicide,” Halden continued.
Halden believes state lawmakers should consider a red-flag law, which gives law enforcement and family members the ability to petition a judge for a gun confiscation order for individuals they believe to be a threat to themselves or others.
Halden claims that a red flag law would save more than 30 lives each year. “That’s significant,” she said.
HB267 was passed by the House Judiciary Committee. The full House will now consider it in the coming weeks.