Legal Liability for Returning Firearms to Suicidal Persons Who Voluntarily Surrender Them in 50 US States


temporary transfer of firearms, voluntary surrender of firearms, suicide

Document Type



Temporary transfers of firearms from suicidal persons is a strategy to reduce the incidence of suicide deaths. We discuss a barrier to the effective operation of voluntary temporary firearm transfer laws: the dearth of guidance on the liability for returning firearms to persons who voluntarily surrender them. We examine the laws of all 50 US states that regulate temporary surrenders of firearms and evaluate whether any provisions govern liability for returning temporarily surrendered firearms.Although 14 states create background check exceptions to permit temporary transfers of firearms from an owner to family, friends, retailers, or law enforcement, no states prescribe procedures for returning those firearms.ability for returning the firearms to people who voluntarily surrendered them.We recommend amending state laws to clarify the process and liability for returning temporarily surrendered firearms to the original owner. Such amendments would be intended to mitigate the potential chilling effect that lack of clarity and presumption of liability may impose on efficiently reducing firearm access to protect firearm owners at risk for suicide.