This segment originally aired Oct. 31, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
On Election Day, a record four states will vote on gun initiatives. Gun control advocates haven’t had much luck getting legislation through Congress or state legislatures, so they’re turning to the initiative process in hopes letting the voter, not politicians, decide policy.
Among them is ballot initiative 1491 in Washington state that would allow family members or police to get a court order to prevent a person from getting a gun who might be a danger to themselves or to others.
Backing the initiative is Marilyn Balcerak, whose 23-year-old severely autistic son James purchased a gun at a local supermarket and murdered his stepsister Brianna Smith with it before taking his own life. Prior to the shootings, Balcerak had contacted police in to ask if there was anything she could do to prevent James from ever purchasing a weapon. They told her it wasn’t possible unless he committed a crime first.
“Who better than loved ones knows if there’s somebody within your family that needs to be protected from a gun?” Balcerak asked VICE News correspondent Michael Moynihan.
Supporters have raised more than $4 million and have the backing of tech billionaires Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen, but the NRA is strongly opposed, and even the ACLU has concerns that the initiative could infringe on due process for gun owners. Balcerak just hopes it saves lives.
“I hope that it will keep families from going through what ours have gone through,” she said. “I cannot say how this affects a family.”