By Noel Frame and Guy Palumbo
What can you do to make common-sense gun laws a priority in Olympia?
More than 30,000 Americans die annually by gun violence. It is unacceptable to do nothing when we have the power to act. In Washington, we and our colleagues are determined to pass laws that protect our communities from gun violence, regardless of what Donald Trump or Congress does — or fails to do.
In our state, two mass shootings perpetrated with assault-style rifles grimly highlighted just how easy it is for unqualified persons to legally obtain the most powerful weapons on the market. And on June 12 of last year, a shooter in Orlando, Florida, took 49 lives in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, sparking renewed outcries for stronger gun laws. Since, there have been marches, vigils, a U.S. Senate filibuster and a U.S. House sit-in — and an overwhelming victory for Initiative 1491, our Extreme Risk Protection Orders initiative.
In Washington state, we pride ourselves on doing better than “the other Washington.” We passed the Early Start Act for young learners and banned toxic chemicals in furniture and toys when the federal government failed to take action. We approved Referendum 74, the first popular-vote victory for marriage equality in the country. It is our responsibility, as elected officials, to do at least as much to save lives from gun violence as our constituents have done at the ballot.
Now we’re back at work in Olympia, with a strong group of gun responsibility legislators ready to ensure common-sense gun bills get the hearing and action they richly deserve. We have been hearing bills that strengthen our laws, help our law enforcement agencies enforce existing laws, protect survivors of violent crime and prevent the firearm suicides in our state, which are well above the national average. We will do everything we can to keep our communities and families safe by keeping firearms out of the wrong hands. And we can and will do so while still honoring the Second Amendment. Constitutional rights and community safety can co-exist.
The gun responsibility agenda in Olympia this year can serve as a roadmap to legislators in other states seeking to act in a time where progress may happen exclusively in state capitols. Dangerous Access Prevention (HB 1122), creates an option for criminal liability if unsafely stored firearms are used by a prohibited person or child to cause gun death or injury. This bill is built on access prevention laws demonstrated to work in other states, is needed in an era when children and mass shooting perpetrators alike have used unsafely stored firearms to kill or injure hundreds.
Another bill, supported by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, would raise the age limit to 21 to purchase assault-style semi-automatic weapons, and require an in-depth background check additional training before they were purchased. If Enhanced Assault Weapon Background Checks (SB 5444 / HB 1387) were in place this past summer, a person like Allan Ivanov, the 19-year-old who killed three with an assault weapon — for which he had to read the instruction manual to use — would not have been able to obtain his weapon. As Ivanov recently stated, the “ease of access” to these extremely powerful weapons allowed him to turn a moment of crisis into a permanent tragedy. Enhanced Assault Weapon Background Checks are a life-saving approach, and have the popular support to pass.
Other key measures will work alongside successful measures that have passed at the ballot in our state to reduce dangerous access to firearms. Law Enforcement and Victim Safety notifications (HB 1501) will inform both police and victims when a prohibited purchaser is denied the purchase of a firearm. Crisis Prevention legislation (SB 5441) temporarily removes access to firearms for individuals who are subject to 72-hour involuntary holds, a group at far greater risk for suicide. And Voluntary Waiver legislation (SB 5553) will allow individuals experiencing crisis to temporarily waive their right to a firearm.
There is no single solution to end this crisis; protecting our children and communities requires a comprehensive approach made up of policies that work together to keep us safe. The 2017 legislative session is too late for the Washingtonians who died because of preventable gun violence in 2016. Next year is too far away for the hundreds of Washingtonians who will die by preventable gun violence this year. We must act now.
Contact your legislators so there is no question about your priorities because it makes a difference when we hear from you. Tell us, your representatives and senators to go on record and to take the vote for common-sense gun laws to end the crisis of gun violence in our communities.
Rep. Noel Frame, D-Greenwood, represents the 36th District. Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, represents the 1st Disrtrict. They are joined in this commentary by Sens. David Frockt (46th LD), Reuven Carlyle (36th LD), Jeannie Darnielle (27th LD), Patty Kuderer (48th LD), John McCoy (38th LD), Jamie Pedersen (43rd LD), and Reps. Laurie Jinkins (27th LD), Steve Bergquist (11th LD), Eileen Cody (34th LD), Beth Doglio (22nd LD), Jessyn Farrell (46th LD), Ruth Kagi (32nd LD), Nicole Macri (43rd LD), Lillian Ortiz-Self (21st LD), Strom Peterson (21st LD), Gerry Pollet (46th LD), June Robinson (38th LD), Mike Sells (38th LD), Tana Senn (41st LD), Derek Stanford (1st LD) and Gael Tarleton (36th LD).