This is common-sense gun legislation. I-1491 would create a civil process so that people who’ve demonstrated a clear risk of hurting themselves or others can’t buy or own guns for up to a year. It’s a simple, and crucial, method for preventing some of the most preventable forms of gun violence—those caused by people who’ve already demonstrated clear signs of distress. Hindsight is 20/20. But many mass shooters have indeed shown signs of violence before they’ve committed mass violence—Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, for instance, beat and abused his ex-wife. Also, far more people shoot themselves than they do others; nearly 80 percent of all gun deaths in Washington state are suicides, and, research shows, some 80 percent of people who attempt suicide exhibited warning signs beforehand. I-1491 would allow family members and police to act on that distress, and gather evidence to petition a judge for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” hearing. Only after receiving a preponderance of evidence would a judge temporarily remove someone’s right to bear arms. Opponents of the measure argue that taking away a person’s rights before they officially commit a crime is an unsettling precedent. But the measure builds on a civil hearing process that already exists in Washington for victims of sexual assault whose assailants were not prosecuted (Sexual Assault Protection Orders function like restraining orders by requiring the offender to stay away from the victim). Plus, I-1491 does not, according to constitutional law experts, violate due process, because the maximum amount of time allowed between the seizure of someone’s guns and the civil hearing is two weeks. “So your guns are taken away for 14 days,” says Marilyn Balcerak, citizen sponsor of I-1491 after her son shot and killed his stepsister and then himself last summer. She believes she could sense the danger long before that. “Isn’t that worth somebody’s life?”
Read the rest of Seattle Weekly’s endorsements for the 2016 general election here.