Voluntary Waiver of Firearm Rights Is Close to Becoming Law in Washington

By Taylor McAvoy / For The Chronicle

A bill that would allow people at risk of suicide to voluntarily give up their gun rights passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 77-20 on Friday, Feb. 23. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Jan. 24.

Senate Bill 5553 allows a person to waive their rights to a firearm if they believe they are prone to moments of suicidal thoughts. The bill as it passed the House was amended to add protections for someone’s identity which must be verified through a county clerk. Still, the bill allows someone to regain their rights to a gun after seven days.

“We are trying to take all the steps we can to move forward,” Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, said during floor debate in the House of Representatives.

The language of the bill is problematic, Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver said. She voiced concerns that people might interpret the bill as a waiver of Second Amendment rights and suggested that it could be termed more akin to a “do not sell” list.

“It allows you, in a moment of lucidity, to say when I get into those moments, please don’t sell me a gun,” Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City, said during floor debate supporting the bill as worded.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death overall in Washington state, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the state’s rates are higher than the annual rate nationally.

A chart from nonprofit suicide prevention and education organization, Forefront, shows that 47 percent of the 1,129 suicides in Washington State in 2015 were by firearm.

The bill will go back to the Senate to consider amendments.

Those amendments require the waiver to be entered into the national instant criminal background check system to identify prohibited purchasers. Waivers are still exempt from the Public Records Act, but now they may only be disclosed to law enforcement.

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Taylor McAvoy is reporting from the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.