Advocates for gun safety want to give families a new tool to deal with armed relatives who are mentally ill, violent or acting erratically.
Initiative 1491 would let superior court judges issue “extreme risk orders” to temporarily take away firearms from those whose behavior indicates they may harm themselves or others.
Currently a protection order — often part of a divorce proceeding or after domestic violence is alleged — is required before a court may take away someone’s weapons.
We recommend passage of Initiative 1491 on Nov. 8. It is a small step that can help reduce deaths by firearms, particularly suicides. Self-inflicted wounds make up two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S..
Claims that I-1491 is an infringement on constitutional rights should not be taken lightly. In this case the worries appear exaggerated.
But under the measure, a judge would have authority to temporarily remove firearms from the person only if police, a relative, domestic partner or roommate, or even a dating partner demonstrated a risk. A signed oath is required from petitioners; filing a false claim becomes a crime.
The affected party would be given a hearing with two weeks to present evidence and argue against the finding. An additional hearing is available to reconsider the order during the year that it is in effect.
Marilyn Balcerak of Bonney Lake sponsored I-1491 after her son, James, began acting out on his mental illness, bought a gun and then killed his stepsister and himself in July 2014.
The Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association are urging votes against the measure; the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is neutral but has expressed concern about due process impacts of these orders. Mental health professional David Combs of Redmond has been speaking around the state against the measure, offering a nuanced view.
Combs says I-1491 serves to further stigmatize individuals who have mental illnesses by suggesting they are likely to be violent. He notes such persons are far more likely to be victims of violence and the ballot measure does nothing to ensure treatment is provided to those in need.
These and other concerns are fair to raise. But I-1491’s small step toward greater public safety is worth taking.
Yes on SJR 8210
Senate Joint Resolution 8210 would fine-tune the operation of the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission.
The next commission meets in 2021. The effect of SJR 8210 is to move the commission’s final plan deadline to Nov. 15, 2021, from Jan. 1, 2022.
In 2011-12, there were complaints that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays overshadowed the process. Moving the deadline up to mid-November means more voters may tune in.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1983 setting up the bipartisan commission to draw up congressional and legislative boundaries once every decade. Two voting members from each major party decide the boundaries, and a majority of three must approve any plan — a better approach than leaving it to legislators.
We wholeheartedly support this constitutional amendment.