As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month continues, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have the opportunity to reduce gun suicide by requiring permit-to-purchase legislation — a policy that can prevent gun violence of all types, and especially gun suicide.
Firearm suicide can be prevented, and one of the most effective ways is by disrupting access to a gun. Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, resulting in an average of 64 deaths a day. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun.
Requiring purchasers to apply for and receive a qualified purchaser card, or purchase permit, allows law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them through a thorough background check process, to deny purchase permits to individuals with dangerous histories who may pose a threat to themselves or others, and to ensure that prospective gun purchasers have been rigorously trained in gun safety.
21 states across the country have implemented laws to require background checks on all handgun sales, and in nearly half of those states, including Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia, the background check system contains a purchase permit requirement. In Connecticut, enacting a permit-to-purchase law helped reduce the rate of gun suicide in the state by 15 percent. Whereas, in Missouri, when the state’s permit-to-purchase law was repealed by the state legislature, the gun suicide rate increased by 16 percent.
Over the next year Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have the chance to take significant steps toward closing loopholes in their background check systems by passing permit-to-purchase legislation that has been proven to help keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun suicide rates.
In Delaware, where over half of the state’s gun deaths are suicides, the state House of Representatives left a key bill on the floor at the end of the 2021 legislative session, which would mandate that firearm purchasers obtain a qualified purchaser card. The bill, SB 3 sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Lockman, would create a handgun qualified purchaser card in Delaware wherein a purchaser would have to present a valid permit, before any handgun purchase. The bill can and should be brought up for consideration again in January.
Every year, 978 people die of gun suicide in Pennsylvania, and 663 people die of gun suicide in Virginia. These two states have seen strong advocacy on the part of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers, as well as other gun safety groups, pushing for state legislatures to join neighboring states and take action on requiring purchase permits. In Pennsylvania specifically, Everytown for Gun Safety has joined with other groups as part of the Pennsylvania Safety Alliance to urge the state lawmakers to take up a piece of permit to purchase legislation, traditionally carried by Senator Haywood, but without much momentum in previous sessions.
If you would like to speak to a Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action volunteer, or a member of Everytown Survivor Network, please do not hesitate to reach out.