OLYMPIA — Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, pre-filed a bill Friday designed to update Washington’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law to help prevent school shootings. This bill, which would amend Washington’s ERPO statute, will likely be one of several school safety measures considered during the 2019 legislative session designed to protect children in schools.
The new bill reflects the unanimous recommendation of the Mass Shooting Workgroup to update the ERPO statute to insure that it can be applied to minors.
“Today marks the sixth anniversary of the devastating school shooting at Sandy Hook,” Frockt said. “On this solemn day, we must acknowledge that we must do more to try to prevent these incidents. This bill will be one of those tools.”
“Since Columbine, thousands of school age children in America have been subjected to school shooting incidents. In cases where the source of the gun could be determined, more than 85 percent of shooters brought them from their own homes or obtained them from friends or relatives. Washington has not been immune to these types of incidents from Marysville to Freeman. Just this week, schools in suburban Seattle were placed on lockdown to school shooting threats.”
Frockt’s bill also has the support of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
“We know that Extreme Risk Protection Orders have already saved lives in our state in the short time they have been in place,” said Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “Clarifying the law’s application to minors is a crucial step that will help keep guns out of the hands of young people who are at risk to harm themselves or others. It will help keep our schools and communities safer from gun violence.”
Frockt introduced the original ERPO statute in 2015. After the bill stalled for two years in the legislature, Washington voters enacted an ERPO initiative in 2016, with an overwhelming 69 percent of the vote. The measure had strong support in nearly every corner of the state.
Washington was the fourth state in the country to enact such a law. Nine other states have since passed similar measures. The ERPO statute allows people to petition the court to remove someone’s firearms if that person poses a significant danger to themselves or others. However, in Washington the statute currently only applies to adults.
This new bill is designed to clarify the application of ERPOs to minors, and keep firearms out of the hands of minors who are at a high risk of hurting themselves or others during a behavioral health crisis or through potential violent behavior.
The bill would allow petitions for ERPOs to be applied to people under the age of 18. If approved, an order would prohibit the minor from accessing, controlling, purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm. The minor’s parent or guardian would be notified of their legal obligation to safely secure any firearms.
This update to the ERPO statute comes at the recommendation of the Mass Shootings Work Group, which met throughout the 2018 interim. The group heard from the King County Prosecutors Firearms Enforcement Unit and the Seattle Police Department’s Crisis Response Unit who have effectively utilized the ERPO tool to obtain court orders to remove firearms in cases of individual exhibiting threats to themselves or others.
But these experts acknowledged ongoing questions about whether the statute could be applied to minors when needed. Members of the task force, composed of law enforcement, school safety officials, behavioral health leaders and civil liberties advocates unanimously included this proposed update in their recommendations to the legislature.
“This legislation is only one element of these comprehensive recommendations which include counseling, behavioral health supports and better threat assessments,” Frockt said. “But it is an important recommendation that will compliment these other steps that are continuing to be developed in anticipation of the coming session.”
For information: Amelia Dickson, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7535
photo: Alliance for Gun Responsibility press conference with Gov. Inslee and legislators, Jan. 15, 2018.