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Sunday, July 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Initiative 1491: Pro: New law would enable loved ones to head off tragedy

Stephanie Holten

I know firsthand how devastating it is when someone you know is dangerous, someone close to you has easy access to a gun. That’s why I urge you to support Initiative 1491.

Four years ago, I was on my knees in my own living room. My ex-husband had a gun pointed at my head. He’d threatened me before, and I thought, “Today he’s going to kill me.”

I didn’t even realize my kids were in the room, watching the whole time, until one of them cried out, distracting my ex-husband long enough for me to dial 911 and throw the phone under a blanket on the couch.

I didn’t know if the call went through or if the operator could even hear us. I remember trying to be loud, using his full name, and praying that I would live to hold my children again.

Just 10 hours beforehand, my ex-husband had been served with a restraining order. In my petition to the court, I confirmed that he owned firearms, that I was scared for my life, and that he was likely to do exactly what he did.

But none of the protection orders handed down by the court required him to hand over his guns. At the time, that wasn’t an option.

Washington state will vote on Initiative 1491, which creates extreme risk protection orders. The new civil protection order fills a gap in existing law by allowing families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if they are a danger to themselves or to others.

If approved, it will become a much needed tool to stop gun tragedies before they happen.

I was lucky. I survived. My ex-husband was convicted of first-degree assault, and I have a lifetime no-contact order against him. I still have nightmares about that day and anxiety in new situations, but life goes on and my children and I are safe.

My story is not unique. Spokane County has one of the highest domestic violence homicide rates in the state, and there is a well-documented connection between guns and domestic violence fatalities. Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed by their partner if their partner owns a firearm.

I-1491 can have life-saving impacts beyond domestic violence for Washington families facing other types of crisis.

It will keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves or others. Half of mass shooters show signs of crisis before acting. More than 80 percent of suicide victims make their intentions known, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Laws like this give people most likely to see those signs a chance to act, and they are working in other states. In Connecticut, a similar policy is helping to prevent suicides and helping people with mental health and substance abuse issues get treatment.

No one law will prevent all gun violence, but we have an opportunity, right now, to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Please support I-1491.

Stephanie Holten of Spokane is a domestic violence and gun violence victim.

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