KY lawmaker introduces bill to help at-risk adults voluntarily block themselves from buying firearms

Lisa Willner
Lisa Willner(LRC Public Information | Submitted Photo)
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 8:14 AM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) - Kentuckians who believe they are at risk for attempting suicide would be able to voluntarily remove their ability to buy or possess firearms under legislation that state Rep. Lisa Willner of Louisville announced Wednesday.

“Tragically, the suicide rate in Kentucky is much higher than the national average, which itself has grown by a third since 1999,” Willner said. “The COVID pandemic dramatically increased risk factors associated with suicide. We need to address this tragic but preventable crisis with a sense of urgency. My bill would give Kentuckians struggling with suicidal thoughts the right to add a self-imposed barrier that could make all of the difference during an extremely difficult moment in their lives.”

Willner, a licensed psychologist who previously served as executive director of the Kentucky Psychological Association, said she’s announcing the bill now because September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Dr. Sheila Schuster, a long-time mental health advocate in Frankfort, also expressed her concerns about the rising suicide rates and the hope that this legislation will save lives.

“During the past few years – especially with the impact of COVID – we have seen more Kentuckians take their lives, often using a firearm,” she said. “This legislation would provide Kentuckians some protection when they are considering suicide.”

Willner’s proposal would have the state create the “Kentucky Voluntary Do Not Sell Firearms List” for those 18 and older who are otherwise not barred from owning a firearm.

Their names would then be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Those wanting to later remove their name would have to wait at least 21 days before the state could finalize that request and notify all parties of the change.

The bill also would make it a crime for others falsely seeking to add or remove another person from this registry, and there would be more protections as well to ensure those who voluntarily add their name do not face discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, healthcare and education.

Willner’s bill is modeled on a law Virginia’s legislature adopted in 2020, and she noted that several other states have either authorized something similar or formally debated it.

Her legislation will be before the General Assembly when it convenes in 2023. A copy can be read here.