November 1, 2019 Blog
We have become all too familiar with what can happen when white supremacist hate is fueled by a gun. El Paso, Pittsburgh, and Charleston are just a few recent high-profile examples of the devastating combination of hate and gun violence.
Until recently, there was little law enforcement could do to prevent these types of hate-fueled mass shootings. But in 2019, that changed here in Washington.
The normalization of hate speech and the rise of hate crimes led us to advocate for an update to Washington’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law. This bill, which passed through the Washington State Legislature in 2019, expanded the factors a judge may consider when issuing an ERPO to include hate-based threats of violence.
This new law allowed for a first-of-its-kind case. In October 2019, local law enforcement and FBI officials used an ERPO to seize a cache of military weapons from a Snohomish County man preparing for a “race war.” The self-avowed neo-Nazi is believed to be the leader of the Atomwaffen Division, one of the most violent extremist groups in the country. Just a few weeks later, the same man, along with a fellow member of Atomwaffen Division, was arrested in Texas with a trunk full of firearms and ammunition.
The impact of this case cannot be understated. Thanks to the work of Seattle Police, federal partners, Arlington Police, and the coordination and courtroom work of the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit, a ranking member of a white nationalist organization was disarmed. As Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “We actually, I firmly believe, prevented a massacre.”
This is a clear example of the power ERPOs have to prevent tragedies before it’s too late. It is also an example of Washington’s continued leadership on implementing ERPOs and taking a proactive, risk-based approach to gun violence prevention.
But we know there is still more work to do to prevent gun violence and disarm hate. That’s why this November, we are co-hosting a summit with the Anti-Defamation League addressing the intersection of hate and firearms. We are committed to continuing to fight for a future where all people are safe from gun violence.
— Kristen Ellingboe is the Communications Manager for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.