A House committee unanimously passed a gun-safety program aimed at preventing suicides that includes state rebates for some purchases of gun safes.
HB134, which now moves to the full House, would create firearm safety literature, covering topics such as safe storage and handling of guns and suicide prevention, to be packaged with cable gun locks and made available free of charge. It would also provide rebate vouchers for between $10 and 200 for concealed-carry permit holders who purchase gun safes.
The bill will cost $900,000, which will come from excess funds already collected from concealed-carry permit fees.
Bill sponsor Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, said Utah ranks fifth in the nation in youth suicides and that, as of 2011, 45 percent of fatal suicide attempts are committed with firearms. He said there are factors that lawmakers cannot alter to prevent suicides, but they can work on gun safety.
"It has nothing to do with taking guns away or mandatory restricting access. It’s simply an education program aimed primarily at parents to talk about the risks of not properly securing your firearms," Eliason said.
He said one-third of youth who committed suicide had faced a crisis in the past 24 hours and 85 percent of youths under 18 who killed themselves with a firearm used a family member’s gun.
Child psychologist and University of Utah professor Doug Gray who studies suicide, said teenagers are impulsive and many suicides that occur after a crisis are preventable.
He shared the story of a teenage boy who, after his girlfriend broke up with him, went looking for his father’s gun to take his own life. His father had locked his guns away, after talking with Gray, and the boy did not find them. The boy’s friend called and they talked and he felt better. When the boy later visited Gray he told the doctor that he was not suicidal anymore, but had he found the gun when he was looking for it he would have killed himself.
Andy Jacobs, the track coach at Orem High School said three weeks ago one of his athletes made an impulsive decision to take his own life.
"I know for fact that this very impulsive action has lasting consequences and that had he had someone there with him or a device that would have protected him from this poor decision he would be alive today," Jacobs said.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said the council supports the bill and worked with the Eliason on it.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.