Initiative 1639 has passed in Washington State, which is a step in the right direction for gun control. However, with the current political climate, it is time to stop thinking of guns as a fundamental freedom and see them as they are: lethal, volatile weapons that need to be out of the hands of as many Americans as possible.
The measure raises the minimum age to own a gun from 18 to 21, requires more stringent background checks and waiting periods, and creates more strict storage requirements.
Guns frequently get into the wrong hands because they are far too easy to obtain. This is because they are often viewed as a fundamental American right. But this so-called “right” infringes on other citizens’ rights–namely, their right to live free from fear of gun violence.
In the U.S., mass shootings are on the rise, especially within schools. As of May 2018, there has been on average one school shooting a week in 2018, according to a CNN report. With mass shootings becoming dismally frequent, big changes need to be made, and they need to be made now. This measure is just one tool that will help save lives.
Believing guns are specifically for “protection” is morally flawed. According to the initiative itself, semiautomatic assault rifles are specifically designed to kill quickly and efficiently. They have been used in some of America’s deadliest shootings, including in Mukilteo and Tacoma here in Washington state. The implications of owning a gun also go far past just protection. Owning a gun implies that gun owners are aware of the possibility of taking somebody’s life, and that this possibility is something they are fully equipped for.
“More than 208,000 students attending at least 212 schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine mass shooting in 1999,” states the initiative. It also states the somber truth that active shooter drills are commonplace for modern day students. Children attending schools today should not have to be afraid of the very real possibility that they may never come home. This truth is hard to face but is an important reality check if we do not take steps to stop murder in schools.
Opponents of gun control commonly claim that gun violence is a result of mental health issues, rather than a problem with gun ownership. This is a misconception because only a small fraction of gun related murders are committed by those with mental illness. That’s not to say it isn’t important to keep guns out of the hands of people who are struggling with mental illness. In fact, I-1639 requires a check of a potential gun owner’s criminal background, pending criminal charges, and certain mental health records. This initiative also includes a waiting time of 10 business days, providing a “cooling off” period which helps suicidal feelings, and feelings of anger, lessen. Initiative I-1639 goes so far as to help fund state mental health institutions with certain fees that are applied to gun purchases.
I’m proud of Washington voters for taking this important step to enact a strict gun control law. While this puts us on the right path toward saving lives, a lot more work still needs to be done.