SEATTLE — The citizen sponsor of Washington state ballot Initiative 1491 believes her son and daughter would still be alive if “extreme-risk protection orders” had been legal two years ago.
When Marilyn Balcerak’s mentally ill son became increasingly violent and potentially suicidal, she repeatedly asked the police how she could keep guns out of his hands. She was told she could get a restraining order or wait until he committed a felony, which would make it illegal to buy a firearm.
But he legally purchased a firearm at a local Fred Meyer and killed his step-sister and then himself.
“I was powerless to stop it,” Balcerak said. “If extreme-risk protection orders had been law two years ago, James would never have been able to buy that gun.”
Initiative 1491 would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if the court finds that he is a threat to himself or others. The “extreme-risk protection orders,” modeled after domestic violence restraining orders, would require a court hearing and due process protections to remove guns from a person in crisis.
Opponents fear the protection orders could be misused by vindictive ex-partners.
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