As a physician who worked for 35 years at a level one trauma hospital in Chicago, I have seen much too much gun violence. House Bill 7, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, will reduce a major component of our gun violence epidemic in New Mexico, i.e., gun-related suicides.
New Mexico is the fourth-worst state in the U.S. in terms of suicide which impacts all age groups, adolescents to senior citizens. Nationally, 60 percent (more than 14,000 in 2018 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) of gun deaths are due to suicides, which are the most lethal (85 percent-95 percent successful) method of taking one’s life.
I can testify from personal experience, trying to counsel them, that families of those who shoot themselves are tortured for the rest of their lives, asking, “What should/could I/we have done to prevent this?” These sad conversations routinely do not go well, with lots of finger-pointing and recriminations, wounds that seldom heal.
HB 7 allows family and household members to act in partnership with law enforcement to prevent such tragedies by using court orders and law enforcement to remove firearms temporarily from individuals who pose an immediate and temporary risk to themselves or others.
Waiting until a fatal event is not an acceptable strategy. Multiple studies show that these laws do work and do prevent suicides. This is one reason why New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence is strongly supporting this bill.
There are of course many other benefits to such laws including: reducing domestic violence, potentially preventing homicides and mass shootings, and getting focused help for those who need emergency mental health or substance abuse treatment.
New Mexico should urgently add its name to the list of the 17 states that already have such laws and do it now, in the legislative session.