The National Rifle Association and the gun lobby arrayed around it may have a lot of influence in Congress and state legislatures around the country, including Washington’s, but an overwhelming majority of voters in the Evergreen State are ready to stand up to them and once again vote to strengthen gun safety laws, a recent survey conducted for the Northwest Progressive Institute has found.
In November of 2014, the people of Washington memorably defied the NRA and voted for universal background checks on gun sales with I‑594. That law remains in place today. But there is more we can do to prevent gun violence.
That’s why, for the last few months, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has been working to qualify I‑1491 to the ballot. I‑1491, which NPI supports, is based on legislation that didn’t make it out of the statehouse in Olympia, and would give judges the authority to temporarily bar a person from accessing firearms.
Here’s how it would work:
Extreme Risk Protection Orders are modeled on our well-established systems of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Protection Orders with careful protections for due process and standards for evidence. After a family member files a petition, the court holds a hearing and determines whether the person poses a serious threat of violence to themselves or others. The judge can issue an order restricting access to firearms for up to one year and can also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure they get the help they need.
Once a petition is filed, the court notifies the subject and a hearing is held. If the evidence of a threat is upheld by a judge, the order is put in place for one year and can be renewed annually should circumstances warrant. The subject may request one hearing a year to rescind the order. Violation of the order carries a criminal penalty.
Last month, on NPI’s behalf, Public Policy Polling asked a sample of likely Washington voters how they would vote on I‑1491 if the election were being held now. Voters were read the ballot title (which is how I‑1491 will be presented on the ballot) and asked to respond. Here’s the wording of the question and the answers:
There will be a measure on Washington’s November 2016 ballot called Initiative 1491. The description reads as follows: Initiative Measure No. 1491 concerns court-issued extreme risk protection orders temporarily preventing access to firearms. This measure would allow police, family, or household members to obtain court orders temporarily preventing firearms access by persons exhibiting mental illness, violent or other behavior indicating they may harm themselves or others. If the election were being held now, would you definitely vote yes, probably vote yes, probably vote no, or definitely vote no on Initiative 1491?
- Yes: 73%
- Definitely vote yes: 56%
- Probably vote yes: 17%
- No: 21%
- Probably vote no: 11%
- Definitely vote no: 10%
- Not sure: 5%
This survey of 679 likely Washington State voters was in the field from June 14th-15th, 2016; all respondents participated via landline. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% confidence level.
The overall “Yes” figure is certainly impressive (73%!), but what really stands out is that an outright majority of voters fall into the Definitely vote yes camp. That 56% number suggests that most Washingtonians are very enthusiastic about I‑1491.
Many initiatives start out of the gate with good topline numbers, but their support can be shallow… a mile wide and an inch deep, as the old adage goes. Our research suggests that the campaign to pass I‑1491 does not have that problem.
The NRA and the gun lobby will probably mount a vocal NO campaign. But as we proved in 2014, the NRA and the gun lobby can be defeated at the ballot. Gun violence is preventable, and with smart, strong, and effective laws like I‑1491, we can save lives and expand freedom for all.
The United States Declaration of Independence, adopted two hundred and forty years ago by the Continental Congress, memorably declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These important and inspiring words have resonated with Americans throughout our country’s history. Generations of progressive activists have tirelessly worked to expand freedom to make these words less hollow and more meaningful for their children and their children’s children.
Previous generations succeeded in abolishing legalized slavery, outlawing oppressive child labor, and advancing civil rights for minorities. We now have an opportunity to build on the progress they have made. Our country faces a gun violence epidemic that threatens all of the unalienable rights explicitly mentioned in the United States Declaration of Independence. If we truly believe in the idea that every one of us has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we need to act to protect lives from being cruelly and unnecessarily cut short by gun violence.
I‑1491 is no panacea, but it will make our communities safer, especially in conjunction with I‑594 and other needed reforms.
Contrary to what the gun lobby says, stronger gun safety laws do work — the experience of other countries teaches us this. We do not have to accept routine mass slaughters as a grim reality in this country. With sensible laws like I‑1491, we can do a better job of looking out for and protecting each other from harm, while still allowing responsible, law-abiding citizens to bear arms.