A bill to update Washington’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) statute to improve school safety passed the Washington State Senate today with a strong bipartisan 43 to 5 vote.

Senate Bill 5027 would amend an initiative passed by Washington voters in 2015, and is sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle). The bill came at the unanimous recommendation of the Mass Shooting Workgroup, which met during the 2018 interim.

“We are facing the emergence of a school shooting generation of children, normalizing lockdowns and active shooter response plans amongst other safety drills,” Frockt said. “This is not normal and I believe our country needs to do more to prevent these tragedies that have affected not only Parkland and Sandy Hook, but Freeman and Marysville in our own state.”

“We can lead the way in our own state with this legislation that was agreed upon by the workgroup comprised of a number of different professionals including law enforcement, educators and behavioral health.”

This new bill is designed to clarify the application of ERPOs to minors, and keep firearms out of the hands of minors who are at a high risk of hurting themselves or others during a behavioral health crisis or through potential violent behavior.

The bill would allow petitions for ERPOs to be applied to people under the age of 18. If approved, an order would prohibit the minor from accessing, controlling, purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm. The minor’s parent or guardian would be notified of their legal obligation to safely secure any firearms.

According to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, shooters exhibited warning signs indicating that they posed a danger to themselves or others before shooting in about half of all mass shootings.

“We know that Washington’s ERPO law has saved lives, and we know that there are typically warning signs before school shootings,” Frockt said. “To me, applying this existing, effective law to minors is the logical next step along with many other bills we are going to pass to provide many more behavioral health supports to our kids.”

Background

Frockt introduced the original ERPO statute in 2015. After the bill stalled for two years in the legislature, Washington voters enacted an ERPO initiative in 2016, with an overwhelming 69 percent of the vote. The measure had strong support in nearly every corner of the state.

Washington was the fourth state in the country to enact such a law. Nine other states have since passed similar measures. The ERPO statute allows people to petition the court to remove someone’s firearms if that person poses a significant danger to themselves or others. However, in Washington the statute currently only applies to adults.