- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Supporters of a proposed ballot measure in Washington state that would create protection orders to take guns from people deemed a serious threat to themselves or others turned in more than 330,000 signatures to the secretary of state Thursday.

Initiative 1491, backed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, comes after legislative efforts to create “extreme risk” protection orders failed earlier this year.

Stephanie Ervin, I-1491’s campaign manager, said that the initiative creates “an import tool for families and law enforcement to prevent crisis from turning into tragedy.”

Under the measure, concerned family or household members or police can petition the court by filing an affidavit stating specific concerns, such as mental illness or domestic violence, and the number and types of firearms owned. Following a court hearing, if the court finds evidence that a person poses a danger to themselves or others by having a firearm, they can have their guns taken away and be prevented from buying a firearm for up to one year.

Only three states - California, Indiana and Connecticut - have enacted similar laws. California passed its bill after the mass shooting in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Marilyn Balcerak, whose son fatally shot his stepsister and then himself in Auburn last year, said that she knew her son was suicidal, but she was powerless to prevent their deaths.

“I did everything I could to keep him from getting a gun, and even went to the police, but was twice turned down,” she said. “If extreme risk protection orders had been law just two years ago, those police officers I talked to would have been able to help me.”

Messages left with the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation were not immediately returned Thursday.

An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state’s office suggests at least 325,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures. The signature validation process is expected to take a few weeks.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility was also behind a 2014 ballot measure, approved by voters that year, that requires background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including private transactions and many loans and gifts. Maine and Nevada both have universal background check measures on the ballot this November.

“For too long, there has been a disconnect between what the American people demand on gun safety and how American politicians vote,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, wrote in an emailed statement. “In 2014, we took this issue to the people of Washington State for an up or down vote – and they spoke loud and clear to prevent gun violence by requiring background checks for all gun sales. This year the people of Maine and Nevada and again in Washington State will have their say at the ballot box as well when it comes to gun safety.”

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