Approved initiative aims to prevent gun tragedies

Approved initiative aims to prevent gun tragedies

SPOKANE, Wash. - Tuesday night, Washington voters approved Initiative 1491, a temporary way of disarming gun owners who might be thinking about hurting themselves or someone else.

Local law enforcement officials are glad to see the initiative pass, but our top cops also want to make sure this new law is not misused by people "crying wolf" and just trying to create problems for otherwise responsible gun owners.

Taking away someone's Second Amendment rights, even briefly, has to involve some solid evidence and must be authorized by a judge.

The new law calls for allowing courts to issue "extreme risk protection orders" to temporarily prevent people from owning or obtaining firearms if they're a danger to themselves or others.

"Quite frankly, I've been on the gun range and have people walk up to me and say, 'Sheriff, you have to get those guns away from my son.' 'Well, why is that sir?' 'Because he's mentally ill, he is having an episode and he's going to hurt somebody,'" said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Knezovich says up until now there wasn't much he could do to help worried parents or potential victims.

"It's a very real moment when you truly think you are going to die," said domestic violence victim Stephanie Holten.

Holten had already received a DV no-contact order when her husband broke into her home and threatened to kill her with a rifle. She said if "extreme risk protection orders" were available four years ago, he could have been forced to temporarily surrender his guns.

"I would have been safer," said Holten. "I truly believe that i would have been safer had his firearms been removed."

Spokane's sheriff says because distressed people often hint they are about to resort to violence, Initiative 1491 gives his deputies a new tool to prevent suicides and murders.

"This law gives us the opportunity to hopefully interject before anybody gets hurt, again, my major concern is somebody being able to file against a neighbor and it be neighborhood type dispute," said Knezovich.

This new initiative goes into effect on Dec. 8.