OLYMPIA – Late last night, the Washington House of Representatives passed House Bill 2793 on a 93-4 vote. The legislation will raise awareness and increase suicide prevention education by working closely with firearms dealers and ranges, pharmacies, and health care providers.
“I believe this new partnership can find effective ways to raise awareness of suicide and to save precious lives,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who has worked on suicide prevention measures over the past five years. “These actions are so important because we know that suicide is the most preventable form of death.”
Orwall spent much of the 2015 interim making connections and meeting with suicide prevention experts, gun rights organizations, law enforcement, veterans groups, gun safety organizations, and survivors on the best ways to tackle the suicide issue in our state.
In Washington, 49 percent of all suicides are death by firearms, and 19 percent are death by poisoning or drug overdose. Washington’s suicide rate is fourteen percent higher than the national average and it is the eighth leading cause of death among Washingtonians.
“Recognizing the warning signs of someone considering suicide and being able to take action is essential for prevention,” said Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, sponsor of the companion legislation, Senate Bill 6603. “Having more people prepared to help our community members in crisis will save lives.”
Orwall hopes her bill will impact the state’s suicide rate and save lives by raising awareness on the signs of suicide and the importance of reducing access to lethal means.
House Bill 2793 will create a “Safe Homes Task Force” that will be convened by the University of Washington to raise public awareness and increase suicide prevention education among partners in key positions to prevent suicides such as firearms dealers and ranges, pharmacies, health care providers, and law enforcement.
Key parts of the bill include:
- Developing suicide prevention messages and trainings for gun dealers and shooting ranges, pharmacists and drug stores, under the leadership of UW.
- Creating pilot programs in two Washington counties with the highest rates of suicide to work with local gun stores and pharmacies to provide both suicide prevention training and distribution of secure storage devices and medication disposal kits.
- Updating the firearms safety pamphlet, in consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to incorporate suicide awareness and prevention materials.
- Requiring pharmacists to undergo a 3-hour training that includes content of lethal means.
- Surveying gun stores and ranges to gather information on what incentives may be effective to engage in the Safer Homes Program.
Orwall’s measure has the backing of the National Rifle Association, the 2nd Amendment Foundation, the State Department of Veterans Affairs, the Washington State Pharmacy Association, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Washington, the UW School of Pharmacy, and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
House Bill 2793 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.