The period between the 2016 presidential election and this year's midterm election has seen some of the most devastating acts of gun violence perceivable. Yet, how many have already faded from our collective memory?
There was the music festival in Las Vegas that saw 58 people mowed down by bullets. In response, eleven states ended up banning bump stocks, but a nationwide ban didn’t pass in Congress. Then there were the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a national movement, led by America’s youth, followed.
In between and after there were more school shootings, there were the journalists slain in their offices in Annapolis. There was the one at YouTube headquarters, the one at a video game competition, and, most recently, there was the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people. Hopefully, we will not have forgotten about it by the midterm elections.
Except, Washington state is the only state that has gun control on the ballot for this midterm election.
Initiative 1639 is comprehensive. It mandates safe storage, increased background checks, raising the purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons, and more. If passed, Washington would rank among Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California for gun safety.
According to Kristen Ellingboe with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Washington has been leading the way on gun prevention policies for a number of years.
“The main thing is that Washington is a leader on this issue,” Ellingboe said.
It started in 2014 with a measure to expand background checks for gun purchases. Then, in 2016 a law passed that allowed courts to remove firearm access for “extreme risk” individuals.
It's great to be ahead of the curve and all, to affect positive change when everything is so goddamn bleak, but how is this the most comprehensive thing out there right now? This is pretty common sense stuff. Shouldn't other states be onto this as well?
“We’re lucky to have the initiative process which allows voters to do what elected officials couldn’t get done,” Ellingboe said. "It's a unique tool that Washingtonians can utilize."
I-1639 originally went through the legislature but it wasn’t acted upon. Instead of letting it die, organizers took it to the ballot. Over 375,000 people signed the petition to make I-1639 a ballot initiative.
It’s this initiative process that may have given Washington a leg up on gun safety measures compared to other states. But, in a year characterized by so much bloodshed, including 11 deaths in Pittsburgh just this past weekend, shouldn’t we expect more across the board? Especially when it shows no signs of stopping.