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.

Dr. Jim Webster lives in Santa Fe. He is a board member of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

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(5) comments

Khal Spencer

As Dr. Webster points out, family and law enforcement are empowered to remove guns. Nowhere in the bill is there either the guarantee to have an attorney present at the fifteen day hearing (you have the right, but if you cannot afford one, you are SoL), or to have a mental health expert required to testify before a one year ERPO confiscation is put into place. So what the bill proponents are doing is severely eroding due process. A person's second amendment right to KBA as well as one's constitutional rights against property seizure are up for grabs under a low "preponderance of evidence" standard and at the whim of a judge who may know far less than I do about mental health. And what judge is going to want to be wrong, so the emphasis at the fifteen day hearing is to err on the side of gun removal. What could possibly go wrong?

A proper ERPO bill would, if it is truly used in an emergency, provide for an emergency fifteen day removal of firearms to err on the side of caution. But at the fifteen day hearing, the burden of proof should be on the state to extend the ban rather than on the individual to prove he or she should not be subject to confiscation. I suspect that is what gun owners and the sheriffs are worried about.

Such changes could all be done by amending the bill, except I suspect this bill is bought and paid for by the anti gun lobby and as we have seen in other stories, critics are being ignored. Hence the strong pushback including 2A Sanctuaries.

We could get together on this for the good of the state as well as to reduce gun violence and save families from needless trauma without setting off alarm bells among gun owners, but I suspect that ain't gonna happen. The political steamroller is in motion.

Charles Andreoli

And like so many other laws of this nature, it will be abused. Count on it.

Charles Andreoli

Contrary to popular belief this law will have little or no effect on preventing suicides. The reason for this is because those that are serious about killing themselves almost always succeed one way or another. The main reason they succeed is because they do not tell others what they intend to do, they just do it. Don't be fooled by the anti gun supporters who use the suicide card to play on your sympathies to push their ant gun agenda. They could care less about the suicides.

Khal Spencer

That is actually false. Numerous, peer reviewed studies in the medical literature point out the obvious. Firearms are a nearly error proof way to shut out the lights and usually succeed. Other methods are less statistically effective and often, the survivor of a failed suicide attempt can be convinced not to give it a second try. So the Doc is correct that guns are excellent suicide tools. The studies claiming effectiveness are all model studies since we can't have a controlled suicide experiment. I may disagree with Dr. Webster on some things, but he knows his medicine.

Richard Reinders

If a person wants to take his life he will, the gun has nothing to do with it. He will do a head on with someone at 100 MPH, or overdose or take a hot bath with razors. The gun does not cause the suicide the person does.

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