Utah Gun Safety Bill Looks To Curb State’s High Suicide Rate

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A Utah lawmaker is proposing a bill that would encourage gun owners to buy trigger locks and gun safes and give stores incentives to implement suicide-prevention programs.

Republican Rep. Steve Eliason of Sandy says the proposed legislation could help curb the state’s suicide rate and prevent young people from using their parent’s firearms to take their lives. His bill, which has not yet been introduced, would offer a rebate to gun owners who purchase the safety devices. Retailers would have to agree to implement suicide-prevention programs in their stores to be eligible for the program.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1gcvrin ) that Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, with 10 residents taking their life each week, most often with a gun.

“The experts say, ‘Look, if you want to move the needle on suicide prevention, you’ve got to educate people on gun safety and you’ve got to get guns secured,’ ” Eliason told the Tribune.

The idea has precedent. For example, about half of gun stores in New Hampshire now offer suicide-prevention materials and education.

The state would pay for the rebates with money from fees for concealed-weapons permits. Utah has a $2.4 million surplus in this fund.

The proposal has already garnered support, including from the Utah Shooting Sports Council.

“Representative Eliason came to us with a suicide-prevention bill, and we saw a perfect place where we could use that money and encourage safety in the home by giving back to the permit holders,” chairman Clark Aposhian told the Tribune.

Suicide rates have historically been higher in Utah than most parts of the country. Utah has the eighth-highest rate of middle-aged suicides in the U.S., with 220 suicides in 2010 by people ages 35-64.

To reduce suicides, state officials are trying to de-stigmatize the issue of mental health and suicide, and the state legislature recently created two suicide-prevention coordinator positions.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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