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Gun violence survivors speak on campaign tour for Initiative 1491 in Yakima

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- A five-city campaign tour by Alliance for Gun Responsibility made a stop in Yakima Tuesday afternoon.

The group was at the downtown Moneytree in support of Initiative 1491, which would temporarily stop a person's access to firearms if there's documented evidence of violence.

“1491 is all about empowering families to prevent tragedies before they happen,” said YES on Initiative 1491 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin.

Tragedies that hit close to home for Marilyn Balcerak, who lost her son and daughter in a murder-suicide.

“There was nothing I could do to keep him from buying a gun,” said Balcerak of her son. “He killed himself and his step-sister and I was powerless to stop it.”

A statewide push, Initiative 1491 would allow family members and authorities to petition a judge to temporarily stop the access of firearms by someone who exhibits a serious threat to themselves or others - a critical step for gun violence survivors.

“I grew up with a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter hovering over my family's home,” said gun violence survivor and civil rights attorney David Morales.

If passed, firearms would be seized and gun purchases would be banned for up to a year.

“In Washington state we have more people die every year by gun violence than by car accident and it's completely unacceptable,” said Ervin.

The campaign aims to create Extreme Risk Protection Orders to stop tragedy before it strikes.

“Every year around 700 people in Washington die facing the barrel of a gun, and it pains me to know we could have done so much more to prevent every one of those deaths,” said city Deputy Mayor Carmen Mendez.

A recent poll shows a huge shift from 2014, with 64 percent of state voters in support of responsible gun laws and 18 percent undecided.

For survivors, Initiative 1491 is an urgent measure that can save future lives.

“If Extreme Risk Protection Orders had been law two years ago my son and daughter would still be alive today,” said Balcerak.

Initiative 1491 has criminal penalties for filing a false petition. It's garnered 340,000 signatures, but the public can make their voice heard by voting on the November ballot.

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