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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Opinion >  Editorial

Our advice: Yes on I-1491; no on I-1501

Initiative 1491. This measure would give loved ones and law enforcement a speedy way to petition a court to have a gun removed from someone who poses harm to themselves and others.

Advocates tried to get the Legislature to adopt “extreme risk protection orders,” but like most gun issues, lawmakers would rather bury them than take a vote. I-594, the background check measure, was easily passed by voters after legislators failed to act.

Gun-rights groups say the initiative is too broadly worded, allowing too many people to seek the order. They also say removing the weapon before a hearing is held violates a gun owner’s basic rights. But the whole point is to act quickly before somebody shoots themselves or somebody else.

If a gun is immediately removed, a hearing must be held within 14 days. The gun would be returned if the seeker of the order could not demonstrate the need. If a judge were to issue an order, the gun would be confiscated for a year, after which the burden of proof returns to the seeker of the order. There is an appeals process for people losing guns. The legal process is similar to that for domestic violence protection orders.

Some mental health advocates are wary, because they believe the initiative could stigmatize those with mental illnesses and remove basic rights. But a mere diagnosis of mental illness would not be enough to remove a weapon. Specific behaviors must be exhibited.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which successfully ran the background check initiative, is behind this one. The face of the measure is a mother who was unable to stop her son from killing his step-sister and himself. She contacted health-care and law-enforcement officials to no avail. A Spokane woman wrote a compelling oped for this paper in which she described her futile efforts to have a gun removed from her threatening husband. She narrowly escaped a harrowing incident.

People who see warning signs of violence should have a way to head off tragedy. We support the initiative.

Initiative 1501. A libertarian think tank wants to contact home-health-care workers to let them know they have the right to leave their union and stop paying dues, thanks to a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The union, Service Employees International Union, doesn’t like this, so it wants an exemption to the Public Records Act that would keep workers’ information under wraps.

That’s the back story of Initiative 1501, which would give seniors and other vulnerable adults more protections against identity theft while altering the public records law. SEIU and the Freedom Foundation have been waging this fight for two years. The initiative’s added protections for seniors look to be sweetener to achieve the real goal.

The American Association of Retired Persons says there are ways to protect seniors without touching the public records law. AARP will be advocating for a bill in the Legislature. That’s a better way to go, so vote no.

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