A Crosscut.com collaboration with Seattle magazine.
On the fall ballot, Washington voters will be asked to vote on two opposing gun control initiatives — one calling for expanded background checks, the other keeping the current system of background checks in place. These are two of only three statewide gun control measures on November ballots anywhere in the country. Alabama voters will be asked to weigh in on an amendment to that state’s constitution protecting the right to bear arms.
Guns, of course, are no small concern: As we put the finishing touches on this story, a young girl narrowly missed a bullet in a drive-by shooting in West Seattle, a man was carjacked at gunpoint in Golden Gardens Park, and two men were shot and killed at a gas station in Kent — all within 48 hours. Not to mention the shooting at Seattle Pacific University in June and the ongoing gun violence that disproportionately affects South Seattle.
At press time in late August, the initiative campaigns were heating up and big money was starting to pour in, especially on the side of expanded background checks. But it was still too early in the process to predict how the vote will go, especially since the big advertising push is expected to come after Labor Day. In anticipation of the vote, we step back and present a picture of guns in Washington state: how they are regulated, who is affected by gun violence, what a bullet does to the body—and, in a personal essay, what a gun does to a relationship.