At the YWCA of Spokane, we are proud to be Spokane’s only state-recognized program for domestic violence victims’ services. As recent headlines have demonstrated, education about domestic violence and advocacy on behalf of victims is as important as providing services to those whose lives have been impacted by family violence.
As a voice for the over 13,000 women and children served by our agency per year, we believe it is our responsibility to do everything we can to support domestic violence victims and prevent the perpetuation of domestic violence.
As the executive director of the YWCA of Spokane, I am proud to support Initiative 594 – and urge you to join me.
Currently, people buying guns at one of the nearly 1,100 licensed dealers in Washington – like Cabela’s – are subject to background checks. These simple and easy checks are effective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people, especially domestic abusers. Since 1998, over 6,000 gun sales to domestic abusers have been blocked by our federal background check system.
But there is a dangerous loophole in our law that allows domestic abusers and other dangerous criminals to evade a background check and buy a gun. These same individuals, who would not pass a background check to buy a gun from a licensed dealer, can go to a gun show or to an online marketplace, like ArmsList.com, and buy a gun from a stranger without a background check and with no questions asked. As we learned this week, there are tens of thousands of guns available to be bought from the Internet without a background check in Washington, including many that can be found right here in Spokane.
It’s long past time that we closed this loophole in our state’s background check law, and that’s exactly what Initiative 594 will do. When a domestic abuser is able to buy a gun, the likelihood of an argument ending in a fatality is increased fivefold. By closing the background check loophole, we can take real and concrete action that makes it harder for domestic abusers, as well as convicted felons and the seriously mentally ill, to obtain guns. And the evidence shows that’s exactly what happens when common-sense background checks are in place for all sales.
In our state, federal background checks have blocked more than 40,000 gun sales to prohibited purchasers since 1998. And in the 16 states with background checks on all handgun sales, there are 38 percent fewer women shot to death by their intimate partners. That’s real evidence that background checks have made a difference for domestic violence victims in other states.
By closing the loophole, using the same quick and effective system of background checks that federally licensed dealers have used in our state for decades, we can potentially block even more sales to domestic abusers and other dangerous people who should not have guns.
The other measure on this year’s ballot, Initiative 591, is very different and would take us in the opposite direction. Initiative 591 would roll back the existing system of background checks in Washington state – a system that is critical to ensuring domestic abusers and the seriously mentally ill can’t obtain a firearm. The Seattle Times was correct when it stated that Initiative 591 is “wholly inappropriate, unnecessary and potentially a reckless retreat.”
These checks are an important part of our background check system that is effective at keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, yet Initiative 591 would endanger them. As an expert who understands the terrible toll that guns in the hands of those who have been found by the law to be too dangerous to have them can take, I urge you to vote “no” on Initiative 591.
There is no single thing we can do that will end domestic abuse or gun violence. But we should do all we can to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and domestic abusers. We can take an important step in this direction by voting yes on 594 this November and closing the background check loophole.
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