Rep. John Curtis has introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., to address gun suicides by allowing individuals to voluntarily put themselves on a “Do not sell” list for firearms.

The Preventing Suicide Through Voluntary Firearm Purchase Delay Act mirrors an already existing Utah law that allows individuals to voluntarily restrict themselves from purchasing and possessing a firearm.

But according to Jacob Dunn, manager at the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, only five people in Utah have utilized the program since it was implemented in May 2021.

While that number may seem small, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy who passed the Utah law, said, “Maybe it saved five peoples lives.” He added he was encouraged to hear anyone was taking advantage of it.

Eliason noted the program hasn’t been running long and believes the current process is “onerous.” Currently, Utahns who would like to restrict their access to firearms have to print out a form found on the bureau’s website and drop it off at any Utah law enforcement agency.

Eliason said he will be running a bill next legislative session to “streamline” the process and make it more accessible.

In 2021, the Utah Legislature passed a bill and implemented a program for individuals to voluntarily restrict themselves from purchasing and possessing a firearm.

Eliason, who sponsored Utah’s legislation, said after national tragedies like mass shootings, the talking points are “all about firearms or it’s all about mental health.” He said the Utah law and Curtis’ bill is the “fusion” of addressing gun violence and mental health. 

He said he’s “optimistic” about what a program like this could do nationally.

“It’s important to give people the option to temporarily restrict their ability to access a firearm,” Eliason said.

If the federal law passes, individuals could voluntarily enroll themselves on a national “Do not sell” list to temporarily prevent them from purchasing a firearm to harm themselves in the event they experience a mental health emergency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 24,000 people died by gun suicide in 2020.

“I deeply regret that many feel the only way out of a difficult situation is to take their own life,” Curtis, R-Utah, said in a joint press release with Jayapal. “It takes incredible courage by those experiencing a mental health emergency to recognize the danger they pose to themselves, particularly if they have access to a firearm during this time.”

Gun access is a factor in suicide rates with suicides being twice as high in states with high gun ownership, even if non-firearm suicides rates were nearly equal to states with low gun ownership.

In 2020, Utah had the ninth highest suicide rate in the country, according to the CDC. More than half of all homicide and suicide deaths in the state were with a firearm, according to the Utah Department of Health. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll last month found 53% of Utahns have a gun in their home.

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“We are losing thousands of people every year to gun suicide,” Jayapal said in the press release. “That’s thousands of people who thought they had no way out, who were suffering. We can and must solve for this public health crisis which has taken so many lives,”

Like Utah, Washington has a process for individuals to voluntarily waive their firearm rights in an effort to reduce suicide.

Curtis told KSL Newsradio this week that he believes Republicans in Congress will support the bill. He added he hopes Jayapal’s role as the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will help gain Democrat support and get the bill scheduled for a vote.

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