Washington task force attempts to address mass shootings

Semi-automatic AR-15's are for sale at Good Guys Guns & Range on February 15, 2018 in Orem, Utah.

SEATTLE — In the wake of a tragic mass shooting in California, a Washington state task force that assembled earlier in 2018 released its recommendations Thursday to prevent similar incidents.

The task force was proposed by Washington State Senator Steve O'Ban with a stated goal "to develop strategies for identifying and intervening against potential perpetrators of mass shootings, educate the public about the availability of extreme risk protection orders, and report on recommendations to prevent these tragedies."

"I appreciate the hard work of the members of the mass shooting prevention task force, and saw firsthand their dedication to making our schools and communities safer," said O'Ban, a Republican representing the state's 28th Legislative District.

While recent legislation like I-1639 hones in on gun control and semi-automatic weapons, O'Ban's task force focuses primarily on mental health issues, a goal that's evident in its recommendations.

Among its recommendations, the task force called for standardized training for resource officers, increased investments for K-12 school counselors, mental health professionals, and social workers, accessible mental health services, suicide and bullying prevention outreach, and establishing that extreme risk protection orders apply to juveniles deemed a risk to others.

Resource officers qualify as sworn law enforcement with the authority to make arrests, and typically are on-site at schools as added security against potential shooting incidents.

Extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) exist under what's commonly known as the state's "red flag law." It allows law enforcement or family to ask the state to temporarily revoke access to firearms from anyone who presents a danger to themselves or others.

The recommendation involving extreme risk protection orders also called for more funding for law enforcement to "ensure proper and efficient service of the orders when granted," and a forfeiture of the right to bear arms when someone is convicted of violating an ERPO more than once.

A study published in 2018 on Indiana's own red flag law found a 7.5 percent reduction in firearm suicides since the state enacted the law a decade ago. Additionally, it's one of the few gun control measures that both Democrats and Republicans align on.

Washington's mass shooting prevention task force is composed of representatives across a variety of backgrounds, including educators, school safety advisory committee members, local law enforcement, Washington's ACLU chapter, Washington State Patrol, and the Office of the Superintendent.

Timely recommendations
This all comes about following news of a mass shooting that killed 12 people in a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. The gunman was an Afghanistan war veteran who was interviewed by police at his home last spring after an episode of agitated behavior that authorities were told could be a result of PTSD.

The hope with the task force and its recommendations is to avoid similar tragedies in Washington, across both public places and school environments.

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