September 3, 2019 Press Releases

Washington Students Return To School Safer From Gun Violence

SEATTLE, WA – Across the state, students are preparing for the 2019-2020 school year. For many students, going back to school means going back to active shooter drills and the threat of gun violence. But this year, students, parents, school employees, and all community members can rest assured that Washington students are returning to safer schools thanks to the passage of Initiative 1639.

“No student should have to fear gun violence at school, but far too many do,” said Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “Many respond to this fear by calling for bulletproof backpacks or armed guards on campuses. But in Washington state, we have taken real, meaningful action to help keep gun violence out of our schools and our communities by passing Initiative 1639. This new law will help protect our young people from gun violence by strengthening the rules for semi-automatic assault rifles and incentivizing secure storage.” 

Initiative 1639, the most comprehensive gun violence prevention measure in state history, was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters statewide in November 2018 and took full effect in July 2019. The law includes several provisions that will protect young people in particular from gun violence. 

School shootings, like all mass shootings, represent only a tiny fraction of gun violence in the United States. But recent polling shows that a majority of teenagers fear a school shooting. That fear is not unfounded: at least 200,000 students across the country have experienced gun violence in school since 1999. In 2016 alone, there were 130 incidents involving a firearm in Washington schools. 

Semi-automatic assault rifles, like the AR-15, are the weapon of choice for school shooters. Initiative 1639 makes it harder for these particularly lethal weapons to fall into dangerous hands by raising the purchase age for semi-automatic assault rifles from 18 to 21 and requiring safety training and an Enhanced Background Check. 

Initiative 1639’s safe storage provision is also designed to keep guns out of the hands of people intent on causing harm. Reports show that more than 85 percent of school shooters obtained the firearm from their home or from a friend or relative. That was the case in Washington’s most recent school shooting at Freeman High School in 2017. 

Safe storage also helps protect young people from firearm suicide and unintentional shootings. States with Dangerous Access Prevention laws, like Initiative 1639’s safe storage provision, in place for at least one year saw a 23 percent drop in unintentional firearm deaths among youth younger than 15. And according to one study, more than 75 percent of firearms used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of a victim, relative, or friend. 

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the initiative can be found here.

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