HARRISBURG, Pa. — As suicide awareness month comes to a close, lawmakers are reintroducing a bill that would allow law enforcement or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person who they believe poses a threat to themselves or others.
According to American Health Rankings, between 2010 and 2018, suicide rates in Pennsylvania increased by nearly 30 percent.
“ We are following the data and trying to come up with a solution that is reasonable, that protects due process for everyone involved,” said Rep. Jennifer Omara.
It’s called the ERPO bill, an acronym that stands for Extreme Risk Protective Order. The law has been adopted in 19 different states including New York and New Jersey. Back in 2018, the bill was introduced but it didn’t receive enough floor votes.
However, some say there’s no need to change existing laws.
”I think it’s opening up a can of worms and the old saying is when you open a can of worms, you can never put all the worms back in the can,” said Patrick Connaghan, the owner of 717 Armory gun store.
Connaghan continued to say the ERPO bill maybe even a violation of the constitution.
In a zoom interview, Rep. Omara said she is not advocating to eliminate gun rights.
“ What we are trying to do is prevent people from dying by suicide and it’s a crisis,” she said.
Omara said the bill will allow individuals due process with a chance in court within 10 days after receiving the protective order.
Republican State Rep. Matt Dowling said he opposes the bill, urging that lawmakers should for more mental health programs instead.
In the coming months, Omara is hoping to secure enough votes to push the bill to the Senate floor.