Holy shit, you guys. If you're looking for a balm to soothe the pain of the military sexual assault bill being rejected by the US Senate this afternoon, look a little closer to home.
In Olympia today, House Bill 1840 passed in the state senate, 49–0. HB 1840 protects domestic violence victims by making it possible for courts to ask DV perpetrators who are deemed a credible threat by a judge to surrender their firearms.
Says a press release from the senate Democrats this evening: "One quarter of domestic violence perpetrators who kill their spouses had been served with a protection order before doing so. Many of these murders are carried out with a fire arm."
I tracked this bill last year after writing a long feature on the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings, but it
failed to pass out of the senate's rules committee. Correction: It did eventually pass out of the rules committee, but was not taken up before the clock ran out on the regular session. Now it's finally headed for the governor's signature.
Here's what I wrote about the bill last year:
If you're convicted on a criminal domestic-violence charge in King County, the law-enforcement tools are in place to seize your guns. But that's not true in every county. And if you're served with a domestic-violence protection order in civil court, where Sandra Shanahan [head of King County's protection-order program] works, those tools are not in place. Federal law says people served with domestic-violence protection orders in civil court should forfeit their firearms, but that's not happening anywhere in Washington State.
"You can't prosecute your way out of domestic violence," [deputy prosecutor David] Martin says about this gap in state law. "You need to have more tools. And those things should be as potent as the thing you're responding to."
Which is why state representative Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) introduced House Bill 1840 in Olympia this year, a bill that according to its official summary "requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies and procedures regarding the acceptance, storage, and return of weapons required to be surrendered."
Goodman tells me in an interview over the phone: "In our effort to address the gun-safety issue, a no-brainer is to identify known dangerous people and prevent them from having access to firearms. And people who are ordered by the court to stay away from their victims, and who have been identified by the court as a credible threat, shouldn't be allowed to possess firearms. It's already prohibited under federal law."
So isn't this a no-brainer? Who in the world would oppose this common-sense legislation? The NRA? Nope, not even the NRA—it supports this proposed legislation. "We worked out the language with the NRA," Goodman explains, adding that Washington State's constitution "guarantees the individual right to bear arms to a greater degree" than the Second Amendment. This bill actually goes further than federal law to protect gun owners' rights, requiring both specific language in the protection order regarding a threat of bodily violence or injury and a separate court finding that the person the order is against is a credible threat. "The NRA testified, they said they'd have no objection to the bill with the language we added." Both Martin and Shanahan testified at the bill's hearing in Olympia. Though, honestly, Shanahan says, it would likely "touch very few cases," it's certainly one step in the right direction.
HB 1840 passed the house, 61 to 37. "We had Republican votes," Goodman says. They also had enough votes to pass the bill in the state senate, Goodman believes, but it was never moved out of the rules committee controlled by the power-hungry Republican-led majority caucus in charge of the senate. "The only opponents [of the bill] are those to the right of the NRA," says Goodman.
He continues: "I do think, of all the firearms-related bills that we considered this year, this one is the most reasonable, most appropriate measure to protect people from making what is already an explosive situation into a lethal situation."
But it won't see the light of day this year. "That bill is not on the agenda," Goodman says.