Written by Isabel Noto, ELAP Summer Intern
Edited by ELAP Staff
Washington State passed a new bill (HB 1562) this year to make communities safer by reducing the harm associated with gun violence and domestic violence. HB 1562 strengthens existing laws that limit access to firearms for certain individuals with previous offenses.
The bill considers different types of prior offenses, not just felony convictions. The bill recognizes domestic violence misdemeanors and non-domestic violence misdemeanors, such as stalking, cyber harassment, unlawful carrying of a firearm, and animal cruelty, as high-risk factors for future violence. By including these acts, the bill’s goal is to prevent people with violent histories from getting firearms.
The bill also shared data to show why controlling access to firearms is crucial for protecting domestic violence survivors. Data show that more than half of intimate partner violence homicides involve firearms. 4.5 million women in the United States have experienced threats involving firearms. And women of color are at a higher risk of intimate partner-related homicide. When abusive partners have access to weapons, the risk of intimate partner homicide increases significantly. By restricting firearm access, the bill aims to protect potential victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The bill also establishes a specific time frame during which individuals with prior offenses are prohibited from possessing firearms. People with felony convictions remain blocked from accessing or purchasing firearms until they are five years crime-free. The bill also extends the time when some non-felony offenders can’t have access to weapons from three to five years. This gives enough time for a thorough assessment of the individuals’ behavior and eligibility before they can have firearm access again.
Washington’s passage of HB 1562 represents an important moment in the fight against gender-based violence. The new law will limit firearm access for people with prior offenses related to domestic violence, a step toward creating a safer environment for survivors and potential victims.