March 27, 2019 Press Releases

Washington, D.C. Follows Washington State’s Lead on Gun Violence Prevention

SEATTLE, WA – Today, a series of actions on Capitol Hill demonstrated that federal elected officials are looking to Washington state as a model for action on gun violence prevention. The flurry of activity is evidence of how quickly the political landscape is changing and suggests that members of Congress may finally be starting to catch up to their constituents on this crucial issue.

This morning, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), a life-saving policy that helps keep guns away from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. Washington state established Extreme Risk Protection Orders in 2016, when nearly 70 percent of voters supported Initiative 1491. Since then, our state has served as an example for passing and implementing these laws. In 2018, the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit helped secure more than 200 firearms using the ERPO petition process. A recent study on a similar law in Connecticut found that for every 10-12 firearms surrendered, one suicide is prevented.

Meanwhile, Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced bipartisan legislation to notify state and local authorities when a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm and fails a background check. This bill follows companion legislation filed earlier this month in the House. Washington state enacted similar legislation in 2017 with the passage of HB 1501, Law Enforcement and Victim Notification. That bill established a process for notifying law enforcement when a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun. It also strengthened a system to notify victims when their abuser or attacker attempts to buy a gun, a best-practice which helps victims keep themselves safe. In the first year after this law took effect, more than 3,200 firearm applications were denied, resulting in nearly 700 referrals to local law enforcement.

“It is encouraging to see our federal elected officials finally giving gun violence prevention a modicum of the attention it deserves and looking to Washington state for examples of the kind of reasonable and effective measures that can really make a difference in addressing this public health crisis,” said Renée Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “There is still so much work to be done to streamline and strengthen both our state and federal gun laws, but today showed that progress is possible.”