Gun violence is an epidemic in Washington and in our country. We can and must do more to prevent it. In Washington we’ve already taken great steps, but there is still more to do.
I have supported action taken by the legislature and the people to remove guns from those who are a danger to themselves and others. In 2014, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1840, which makes it illegal for anyone subject to a domestic violence protective, no contact, or restraining order to possess a firearm. This new law gave courts new authority to order the relinquishment of firearms and was intended to reduce the risk to victims and families. Two years later, the Washington voters expressed their desire for appropriate gun safety measures by approving I-1491—the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) initiative.
Nationally, a woman is fatally shot by an intimate partner every 16 hours, and when an abuser has access to a firearm, a woman is five times more likely to be killed. In Washington state, in 54% of all domestic violence homicides, the defendant had previously been ordered to surrender firearms. Due to the extreme risk that firearms cause in domestic violence situations, I believed it was important to ensure these new laws were enforced in King County.
Earlier this year, my office worked closely with law enforcement, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, law enforcement, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and the courts to launch a brand new Regional Domestic Violence Firearm Enforcement Unit (RDVFEU).” This new unit, the first of its kind in the nation, increases public safety by giving law enforcement the necessary resources to remove firearms from domestic violence perpetrators and from those subject to Extreme Risk Protection Orders for displaying harm to self or others.
In the first four months of operation, the RDVFEU served 83 orders to surrender weapons and removed 181 firearms, which allowed 107 victims to successfully receive outreach, safety planning, and resource referrals. By way of comparison, that is more in four months than were removed during the entire year in 2017, before the launch of this unit, when only 124 firearms were removed. It is undeniable that this unit is serving victims and increasing public safety by saving lives.
In addition to establishing the RDVFEU, I was a strong supporter of I-594, which established universal background checks in the state of Washington for both public and private sales of firearms. I also support Initiative 1639 which will raise the age to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle to 21 and require background checks for those seeking to purchase an assault rifle. It is a comprehensive measure to keep schools and our communities safe.
We can and should do more legislatively by passing evidence-based gun violence prevention policies that will make Washington safer and save lives. I support taking additional common sense steps to prevent gun violence.