Weighing individual rights against public safety always is a difficult balancing act, but Initiative 1491 represents a reasonable approach to such concerns as they relate to gun rights. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a “yes” vote on the measure.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts voters to examine the initiative before casting an informed ballot.
Initiative 1491 would allow family, police, or household members to obtain a court order temporarily preventing firearms access for those who exhibit mental illness or violent tendencies. The threshold is whether a person represents a danger to themselves or others, following the existing process for other civil protection orders. Under current law, the only way guns may be taken away from a person experiencing a mental-health crisis is if that person has been involuntarily committed for 14 days or more, or if they are under a special type of protection order.
Any proposal involving gun rights provokes strong feelings on both sides. Rights that are established in the U.S. Constitution are essential — but they are not inviolate. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater and expect to be protected by the First Amendment.
All too often, debate about gun rights ignores the most pressing issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides. Mass shootings or street violence garner the bulk of the attention, but most of the carnage is perpetrated by despondent people upon themselves.
That reflects the need for Initiative 1491. Those living in a home with somebody who demonstrates mental illness should have tools at their disposal to enhance safety and avoid tragedy.
Initiative 1491 is not a perfect solution to gun violence; no measure could be. But it is a reasonable approach to reducing an unacceptable epidemic.