Research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in conjunction with the Utah Department of Health, has shown that 85% of firearm deaths in Utah are due to suicide, and guns are the method in half of the states’ suicides.
For the third consecutive year, Utah Representative Steve Handy will be proposing the newest bill for Extreme Risk Protective Orders, also known as ‘red flag’ laws allowing law enforcement to seize and hold weapons.
“What it does is fills a gap in current law where if a person is making a threat to him or herself or to a wider spread audience, it provides under due process — under a judge’s order — the opportunity to temporarily remove that most volatile, terrible means of doing harm, which is a firearm," said the Republican representative from Layton. "And then the person has the opportunity, within 14 days, to appear in court and to make his or her case.”
Carrie Butler, the policy director for Action Utah, said she doesn’t expect the order to be used frequently if passed, maybe even less than 100 times, but the goal is to ultimately save lives.
“Utah has a high suicide rate, we have a high completion rate," Butler said. "We do not necessarily have a higher attempt rate, and that is important because means matter. We have so much access to firearms in the state, and we know that access to the means is what is increasing our rate, because it’s pretty instantaneous, right? There’s not a lot of recovery happening.”
According to Butler, at the moment, there is no mechanism in place for law enforcement to remove firearms from an individual of concern.
While Handy said there is no guarentee every suicide or domestic homicide by firearm could be prevented, this law gives families and law enforcement "another tool in the toolbox to help."
If the bill passes in the 2020 legislative session, Utah would join 17 other states and the District of Columbia to adopt this kind of civil law.