Gun control advocates like to use “gun deaths” when they talk about the need for anti-Second Amendment measures. That’s because the term encompasses any death resulting from a gunshot. Many of those are suicides, though, which is troubling.
After all, people who already own guns aren’t going to be inhibited by crap like waiting periods. Red flag laws may encourage some to stay quiet about their struggles.
Yet a new Montana law may actually save real lives and undermine gun control arguments.
At his home, Mike Hossfeld unlocked a heavy black steel door to his gun safe room, unveiling both modern and collectable firearms from the early 1900s.
“Most of this is mine. There are a few weapons in here that belong to other folks.” he says.
Hossfeld regularly stores firearms for others who are going through a crisis or simply a rough period in life. That puts time and space between them and their guns, which can significantly reduce suicide risk.
Hossfeld first stored a firearm for his National Guard commander in the 1980s after he talked about suicide.
“We carried our sidearms in a shoulder holster. So I just walked over and took the strap off, and said I was going to store his weapon for him in my toolbox,” Hossfeld recalls.
His commander recovered and was very happy to get his weapon back, Hossfeld says. And that’s the whole premise, Hossfeld says, of a Montana law passed earlier this year: to make it easier to help a friend get through a mental health crisis and alleviate the immediate risk of suicide until someone gets better.
Montana lawmakers passed legislation to protect those that store firearms for others from legal liabilities in case someone subsequently harms themselves after picking up their gun.
Public health officials hope that will encourage more people like Hossfeld to store firearms for family and friends. They also want to encourage gun shops and shooting ranges to offer storage for the public.
This law is a very good thing as it will encourage people to be willing to store guns to reduce suicides, thus reducing the total number of gun deaths. Every state should have a law like this.
However, there are some issues that need to be addressed with regard to gun stores. Namely, background check requirements.
For example, have you ever put a gun for sale at a gun store on consignment? I have, and when I decided against selling it, I had to go through all the paperwork as if I were buying it all over again. The only difference is that money didn’t change hands.
If a store is temporarily holding the gun, how do they handle all that? Is it no different than having a gun on consignment or is it a different matter entirely? That’s something the feds will need to address one way or another.
There are also different hurdles in some states, even for those who aren’t worried about liability.
Those are called universal background checks.
Let’s say someone is feeling depressed and thinking of taking their own life, but doesn’t want to be a gun death statistic. They call a buddy of theirs up and ask if the buddy can store the guns for a little while, at least until they’re feeling better.
The buddy says, “Sure.”
But because of the universal background check requirement in those states, it creates a barrier that someone who is suicidal may not want to mess around with, so they don’t hand over their guns to anyone.
We know how that can turn out.
If we’re going to consider all gun deaths as equally problematic, then we should be tripping over ourselves to make it as easy as possible for gun owners to temporarily divest themselves of their firearms without undue burdens being placed on them to do so.
Montana did something akin to that by making it easier for people to agree to take them on. Now, it’s up to the feds and other states to take the needed steps along these lines as well.