Mandatory mental health checks for WA firearms licences drawing criticism

Mandatory mental health checks for firearms licence holders in Western Australia could discourage people from seeking help and would do little to reduce firearms related violence and fatalities according to expert commentators.

The discussion of WA Police Minister Paul Papalia’s recent announcement to introduce these measures in the review of the WA Firearms Act is developing rapidly and some measured responses have entered the debate.

Psychologist Peta Slocombe’s opinion piece in the February 8 edition of The West Australian labelled Minister Papalia’s assertion that mental health checks would make the community safer by reducing fatalities as a “long bow to draw”.

“Sadly, we know all too well from the data that of the more than 3400 suicides in Australia each year, most do not hold gun licences,” she wrote.

“If people want to take their own lives, having a gun is not a pre-requisite.”

She continued by saying “it is unlikely that except in the most obvious of cases, a mental health screen at application will be a protective factor.”

“Careful thought should also be given as to what we are expecting to achieve, whether self-reporting or formal diagnosis (both flawed focus points) are sufficient, and whether we will deter more people from seeking support, than lives we will save.”

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