On the ballot: Initiative 1639 for gun safety

On the ballot: Initiative 1639 for gun safety

Election Day is less than two months away and soon, voters in Washington will get the chance to decide on several ballot measures that could have a big impact on the state’s future.

One of those measures is Initiative 1639, which calls for stricter gun regulation statewide. It’s a measure that’s sparked a debate between gun rights supports and gun safety advocates — and it almost didn’t make it on the November ballot, until the state supreme court reversed a judge’s decision to throw it out.

I-1639 seeks to raise the minimum age to purchase a ‘semiautomatic rifle,’ as it’s referred to in the initiative text, from 18 to 21 years old. It calls for enhanced background checks for and training to use those rifles.

It also focuses on safe storage. The measure states if a person knowingly leaves a firearm where someone could take it, and ends up causing harm, they’d be held legally responsible in some cases. The initiatives states there are exceptions: if the firearm was in secure gun storage, if a parent gave lawful permission, if the firearm is used for self-defense and if the firearm was taken after unlawful entry and the theft is reported by the victim to local law enforcement within five days of knowing the firearm was taken.

Eric Hill is concerned with the language in the initiative. Hill is a lifetime member of the NRA and is against the ballot measure.

“This one should be scary to people, just on the fact that a lot of innocent people are going to end up in prison and their only crime is that somebody stole from them,” Hill said.

Hill believes the idea of changing gun laws goes against the constitution.

“They were so important to our founding fathers that they put it as number two behind free speech,” Hill said. “Now does anybody wonder why they did that and not like, number 12 on the list?”

High school senior Ellary Lockwood with Students Demand Action disagrees.

“Safe storage is really important because it does make sure that the wrong people don’t get their hands on guns,” Lockwood said.

Gun safety is one of the reasons she helped organize Spokane’s March For Our Lives this year.

“We really feel that these measures are common sense owners and they respect the rights of gun owners,” Lockwood said. “It’s not infringing on the rights of gun owners. It’s simply taking steps to make sure that guns are in the hands of the right people who will use them responsibly.”

Though Lockwood and Hill are on opposite sides of the debate, they both believe everyone should get out and vote.

“If we raise awareness about voting, we’ll be able to make change happen,” Lockwood said.

“We need to get out and vote people,” Hill said. “We need to get off of our couch and vote.”

To read the full text of Initiative 1639, click here.