Progress Report on Gun Safety

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State CapitolOn Presidents Day I joined several of my Council colleagues in Olympia to meet with state legislators and the Governor’s staff about a variety of the City’s priorities, including gun safety. There seems to be both encouraging movement on this issue and a lot of work left to do. The following day, a universal background check bill put forward by Seattle Rep. Jamie Pedersen passed the House Judiciary Committee 7-6, with Seattle police officer Representative Mike Hope (R-44th District) providing a critical vote in support.

Universal background checks were one piece of the City’s legislative agenda announced in late December. The other elements included an assault weapons ban, a ban on large capacity ammunition magazines, micro-stamping technology and trigger locks and safe storage requirements. Unfortunately, many of the other pieces of gun safety legislation did not make it out of committee by last Friday’s deadline. That is disappointing, as Washingtonians are clearly ready for more responsible gun safety laws.

On Wednesday, March 6, the Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee and Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee will hold a joint meeting to hear from public health officials about proposals to reduce gun violence that the Council will consider through supplemental budget legislation.

Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. David Fleming presented a strong case at a public forum earlier this month as to why this issue should be approached through a public health lens: “Gun violence is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States and in King County. As such it is a leading public health problem. The good news about public health problems is that, time and again, they have proven to be fixable, to be solvable. And so there is no better time than now to begin to change our conception of gun violence from something that is inevitable to something that is a fixable public health problem.” Dr. Fleming’s office also put together a compelling compilation of facts on gun violence.

Not only is the public health community energized on this issue, but so are the City’s religious and moral voices. I recently participated in a candlelight vigil and march that ended at St. James Cathedral, where Father Michael Ryan welcomed us and gave remarks that have stayed with me.

A lot of work is happening and momentum is building to bring responsible gun safety measures to our communities. To enact lasting change, we must keep up the pressure on all of these fronts.