Mental Illness, Access to Firearms Major Risk Factors for Suicide
Legislation Assembly Democrats Patricia Egan Jones and Gabriela Mosquera sponsored to prevent individuals with an elevated risk of engaging in violence due to mental illness from causing harm to themselves and others was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
“For someone who may be struggling with disturbing thoughts, having access to a firearm significantly increases the likelihood of suicide,” said Egan Jones (D-Camden/Gloucester). “By reducing their access to a lethal weapon, New Jersey can help prevent fatalities among those with serious mental health concerns.”
Suicide – the 10th leading cause of death in the United States overall and the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-34 – is substantially more likely among persons with mental disorders, Egan Jones noted.
The bill (A-2938) would require the state attorney general to confiscate the firearms of an individual determined by a mental health professional to be a threat to him- or herself or others. The legislation would require a practitioner of psychology, psychiatry, medicine, nursing, clinical social work or marriage counseling to report the patient’s name and other non-clinical identifying information to the attorney general. If the attorney general determines that the patient has been issued a firearms purchaser identification card, a permit to purchase a handgun or any other permit or license authorizing possession of a firearm, the attorney general then must arrange for the removal of firearms from the patient’s possession, pending a hearing.
“The vast majority of people who have a mental illness will never commit an act of violence, but multiple mass shootings, domestic violence homicides and suicides in this country could have been prevented if people known to have serious mental health concerns did not have access to a firearm,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Mental health professionals know the signs to look out for and are in the best position to determine whether someone poses an imminent threat to him- or herself or someone else.”
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.