SEATTLE — Washington has relatively more stringent gun laws in the state, compared to others. One expert who has decades of research in firearms safety said Texas laws could have done more.
"I wish that Gov. Abbott and the state legislators would look themselves in the mirror and realize that they could have prevented these from happening," said Dr. Frederick Rivara, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington (UW).
Rivara has done 35 years of research in the field of gun safety and serves as the founding director of UW's Harborview Injury and Research Center. He said shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, are preventable.
In Washington, several laws are in place to prevent gun violence. The state requires universal background checks during gun sales, a ban on high-capacity magazines and people younger than 21 are not allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons.
In 2016, Washington voters passed an initiative on "extreme risk protection orders," known as ERPOs, which allow family members and law enforcement to request a court order that prevents someone from accessing guns if they're worried the person might be at risk of harming themselves or others. There must be demonstrated evidence that the person poses a significant danger.
In King County, 70 to 80 ERPO petitions were filed each year, on average, according to a King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office spokesperson.
So far, 34 were filed in 2022. Of those, 30 were filed by law enforcement, four were filed by other non-police individuals. There were 79 ERPO petitions filed in 2020, and 67 were filed in 2019.
"We know that it has been under-utilized," Rivara said.
Rivara added, that children in Washington state should feel safe because of the gun laws that have been passed in the state.
"I think that we can reassure our children and I think that's a very important message to tell our children to reassure them that we've done everything we can to keep them safe," Rivara said.