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Blocking I-1639 Is About More Than a Single Initiative

A mother's advice for advocates for gun law reform

Published on: August 24, 2018

Supporters of Initiative 1639 gather in Olympia
Supporters of Initiative 1639 gather in Olympia. Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility

I grew up in a little New Mexican town surrounded by guns. My neighbors wore them proudly on their belt holsters. My family owned guns, too; they still do. 

When I moved into an apartment during college, my father, a proud gun owner, made plans to outfit me with a small handgun that I could carry in my purse — until my mother insisted otherwise. She hated guns; she still does.

I was 20 the first time I shot a gun. I rode out into the desert with a boy I was too eager to impress (also along for the ride: his roommate). I alternated between shooting a handgun and a semiautomatic rifle.

The boys were astounded by my command of the rifle. I was astounded by its power and control. For months, I used a picture of me posing with it as my profile picture on Facebook.

So guns have, in one way or another, long been a part of my life. What hasn’t been are mass school shootings.

What's changed

When I was a student, Columbine had happened but it stood as an isolated incident — a lone tragedy, far away. That was until Sandy Hook and Pulse and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, and every mass shooting before and after and in-between. 

It's now standard protocol for children to have regular drills to prepare for a potential shooter. This is the landscape of fear we are cultivating for our children.

And that’s what I thought of when I heard the news last Friday that Thurston County Judge James Dixon blocked a gun safety initiative from the November 2018 ballot.

The initiative, I-1639, proposes raising the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles and enhancing background checks, among other measures to reform Washington state gun laws. 

Judge Dixon ruled that the formatting of the I-1639 signature petition did not "comport" with Washington state law which requires that petitions “must have a readable, full, true, correct copy of the proposed measure.”  

The I-1639 petition didn't include underlines and strike-throughs to show how the initiative would change existing gun laws, which the NRA and other gun rights activists have been arguing violates state law.

Why this matters

I signed the petition to get to I-1639 on the ballot. I didn't read the back of it to find out what every single detail of the initiative was. That's on me. It’s the responsibility of a citizen to inform themselves. 

But here’s the thing: I do feel informed. Every headline announcing yet another school shooting proves to me that gun law must change.

Our current laws are not doing enough to protect the people of this country, especially our children. No parent should ever have to be worried that their child might be the victim of a mass shooting. No child — no person — should ever be the victim of a mass shooting. 

This isn't about taking away people's guns or rights away. It's about every life that has been lost and traumatized by the tragedy of gun violence.

The more than 375,000 people who signed the petition for I-1639 want things to change. They've made that clear. So whatever the verdict on if I-1639 will be on the November ballot — the case is currently under appeal — I call upon my fellow I-1639 supporters to be active, responsible citizens.

Let’s learn about other initiatives to reform gun law including reading more about I-1639. Let's write letters telling our leaders why we support I-1639. Let’s volunteer. Let's donate. Let’s protest and demand that our elected politicians stop taking donations from the NRA. Let's vote. 

Because gun reform? It isn't about a single initiative. It’s about our responsibility to keep our children safe.

What more can you do?

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