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Tougher gun measures sought by King County in wake of Texas shooting

Councilmembers pointed to the church shooting in Texas last weekend, where the gunman had a history of domestic violence, as a reason for their unanimous allocation of funds. (Photo: KOMO News){ }

SEATTLE - Police and prosecutors in King County are pushing to respond faster to the requests of families fearful of a dangerous or mentally ill loved one who has a gun.

On Monday, the Metropolitan King County Council agreed to dedicate $600,000 to create a task force that will solely focus on firearms relinquishment in domestic violence and extreme protection order cases.

Councilmembers pointed to the church shooting in Texas last weekend, where the gunman had a history of domestic violence, as a reason for their unanimous allocation of funds.

“We have got to do this work. We have an epidemic of gun violence in our country,” Council Chair Joe McDermott told KOMO on Tuesday.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said the task force of sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors and support staff will be on the fourth floor of the King County Courthouse, the same floor as his office.

“We are establishing for the first time, and the first time in this state, a regional domestic violence and extreme risk protection task force to remove weapons at a time of crisis in a family,” Satterberg said.

Satterberg said that women experiencing domestic violence in homes with guns are “five times more likely to be murdered” than in homes without firearms.

He said the task force follows up on Initiative 1491, a measure that passed statewide last year. The measure allows families to ask a judge to remove firearms from the hands of someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

“What this regional group will do is take those orders and actually go out and do the hard work of temporarily removing guns from homes where there’s a danger,” Satterberg said.

The firearms can be returned to their owners after the domestic violence crisis is over or the gun owner has received counseling, Satterberg said.

Seattle police Sgt. Dorothy Kim said her department will also join the effort. She and other members of SPD’s domestic violence unit have been reviewing domestic violence cases on a weekly basis to determine whether police need to step in quickly to retrieve firearms.

Kim said the current system, where a domestic violence victim petitions for a protection order through a civil court, often results in police not being notified when they need to intervene. She said that having a task force of police and prosecutors dedicated to firearms retrieval will not only save lives but help victims get what they need.

“They’re getting the protection order, asking for help getting this dangerous firearm out of the house and we’re doing nothing,” Kim said.

Satterberg said he hopes the task force will be up and running by the first of the year. He said he hopes to involved suburban police agencies as well.

“The law has made a sacred promise to people, you ask for help and we’ll help you, but up until now we’ve really not been able to provide that kind of help,” Satterberg said. “This will save lives and we’ll help coordinate that effort at the prosecutor’s office.”

McDermott said the council is also allocating $100,000 toward a firearms injury prevention program. The program will include an advertising campaign focusing on getting people to lock their guns up.

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