Owning a gun is a big responsibility, one which increases the risk of suicide or homicide for gun owners and their families. In Washington state, nearly 6,000 people were killed with a gun in the last decade.
Thankfully, today Washington voters are making a decision that will save lives, by passing Initiative 594 by a margin of almost 20%. According to gun safety organization Washington Ceasefire, “Those states that have the most reasonable gun laws have far fewer gun deaths than those states that have the least restrictions.”
I-594 will require background checks of gun buyers at private sales and gun shows. Our current law contains a loophole—it only requires buyers purchasing a gun from licensed dealers to undergo a background check. Until the passage of I-594, it was legal for anyone to buy a gun out of a trunk in a parking lot or over the Internet. Criminals, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness could evade a background check by avoiding licensed gun dealers.
This initiative and opposing initiative, I-591, are the first gun-related ballot measures in the country since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. This has made them the focus of national media and big contributors, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the National Rifle Association.
The country’s watching, and I-594’s strong victory will likely energize gun safety efforts in other states.
Background checks have been shown to save lives, something that important to people in Washington who are struggling right now to understand last week’s violent deaths of Marysville-Pilchuck High School students. This vote is a good step towards a safer state.