Bill aimed at preventing gun violence clears hurdle in Legislature

OLYMPIA -- A push to help prevent gun violence in Washington moved a step forward in the Legislature Thursday.

The “Sheena Henderson Act” cleared a key state House of Representatives committee that will notify family members when police return a gun to a person from whom it was previously confiscated.

“This is an issue of community safety and peace of mind,” said Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane,  sponsor of the measure.

Each year there are many cases where police temporarily seize firearms because of mental health or domestic violence problems.  But right now there is no plan to alert families when those firearms get returned, possibly putting lives in jeopardy.

The bill is in direct response to a tragic shooting last summer in Spokane.

Sheena Henderson was killed by her husband the day after he retrieved his gun from police.  It had been seized a few weeks earlier because of a suicide attempt and threatening behavior.

Henderson’s family said she would have taken precautions had she known her husband had gotten his firearm back.  Instead, he came to her place of work and shot her and then turned the gun on himself.

Supporters of this measure wants to make sure this never happens again.

“The Sheena Henderson Act will save lives,” said Billig.  “If somebody knows that their loved one, who’s maybe in a really tough spot, has their firearm, or doesn’t have their firearm, it gives them all the information they need to be able to make safety decisions for themselves.”

The measure has gained a lot of momentum in Olympia.  It passed the state Senate unanimously last month and most expect it will pass the House in the next few weeks.