Washington, D.C. — Even though violent crime has declined dramatically in recent decades, young people disproportionately bear its burden, with 51 percent of people murdered by guns in Washington State in 2011 being under the age of 30. While voters in the state have the chance to address the serious issue of gun violence with Initiative 594 this fall, they will do so with the knowledge that young Washingtonians are disproportionately affected by this violence. A new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress titled “9 Things to Know About Gun Violence in Washington State” highlights this and several other measures of gun violence in Washington that stand out as exceptional, unusual, or well above the national average.
There is currently a loophole in Washington state law that makes it easier for dangerous people to evade background checks and get guns online, at gun shows, and even in parking lots from strangers, no questions asked. Initiative 594 would close that loophole by applying the existing background check for licensed sales to all sales.
“Closing the background check loophole is a common-sense, life-saving step we can take to address gun violence in Washington,” said Chelsea Parsons, Director of Crime and Firearms Policy at American Progress. “Passing Initiative 594 will make it harder for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to have easy access to guns and will make young people—and the entire Washington community—safer.”
Washington state has seen several high-profile cases of violence against young people in recent years, punctuating the significantly higher rate at which gun violence affects young people in Washington. Women are also particularly vulnerable to gun violence in the state: Between 2003 and 2012, 226 women were murdered with guns in Washington State, and more than one-third of all women murdered in the state were killed by abusers. But while prohibited domestic abusers would not be able to buy a gun from a licensed dealer in the state, they can easily evade a background check by purchasing from a stranger or an unlicensed seller.
Gray Wessel experienced the impact of gun violence first hand when his friend, Aaron, was shot and killed in a car. “Today’s findings reinforce what we already know: Gun violence is too prevalent and we must take steps to reduce it,” Wessel said. “The day Aaron was killed was the worst day of my life, which is why speaking out and taking action to prevent senseless gun violence is so important to me. Initiative 594 will help keep our communities safer.
The CAP report details a number of key ways in which gun violence in Washington is higher than the national average, unique, or exceptional, including the disproportionate impact of gun violence on Washingtonians under 30 years old. Closing the background check loophole is a key, common-sense way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Other findings include:
- More people are killed by guns than by cars in Washington.
- Washington has a higher rate of law enforcement officers murdered with guns, and those killers are often prohibited from gun possession.
- Women are particularly at risk for gun violence.
- About 1 in 10 gun buyers seeking to purchase guns online in Washington were prohibited from possessing guns.
- There are more gun dealers in the state than post offices and Starbucks combined.
The full report can be viewed here.
For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Benton Strong at 202.481.8142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.