On Monday morning, our nation woke up to reports of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. We grieve for the 59 people who lost their lives and the hundreds injured in the attack in Las Vegas. As new evidence and details emerge we learn that the shooter brought in 23 guns along with at least one firearm that was modified to allow rapid-fire. This is appalling and heartbreaking, and unfortunately becoming more and more normalized.
Gun related deaths and mass shootings are so common in the United States today we are becoming numb to them. We have become accustomed to a level of tragedy that we should NEVER accept as normal.
Some may say that we cannot politicize gun violence during this tragic time; that we must mourn and allow for time to heal. BUT if we wait for a time when there hasn’t just been a mass shooting, we will never get anything done because out of the last 471 days, there have been 521 mass shootings.
The current President and his administration will not act. We must look for solutions at multiple levels to ensure that lives are not lost to shooters. We must limit and restrict the weapons that are used to carry out massacres upon innocent lives.
In Seattle and in Washington we have made significant progress that many other states and cities have not. Thanks to our Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and allies, we passed a statewide initiative in 2014 requiring universal background checks initiative. In 2016, we created extreme risk-protection order process to allow law-enforcement officers, family members and others to ask a judge to keep firearms out of the hands of someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Here in Seattle and King County, I have been championing the creation of a robust firearm surrender program. With support from our City Attorney, Mayor’s Office, King County Executive and King County Prosecuting Attorney, we are making important strides. The firearm surrender program ensures in instances of domestic violence, that perpetrators who are required by court order to surrender their firearms actually DO surrender their guns.
Additionally, thanks to Mayor Tim Burgess, during his council term in 2015, we successfully passed a tax on firearm and ammunition sales. This tax charged to gun sellers took effect in 2016, adding $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition that will be used to fund a Harborview Medical Center study and intervention program for gun-violence victims. We faced opposition in the Washington state Supreme Court from several groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) and ultimately won the right to charge this tax. However, there is more we need to do to protect our residents nationally, statewide, locally and in each of our homes.
In Olympia, Governor Inslee today called on state lawmakers to pass additional gun regulations when it meets early next year. I am a firm supporter of past legislature efforts to ban and/or strengthen regulations around assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Additionally, I believe we need to revisit proposals that will impose misdemeanors for gun owners who fail to report lost or stolen firearms and owners who have left firearms lying around where a child subsequently found and fired it. I believe we have a renewed obligation to look at bills like these.
I have identified 13 strategies that outline intervention points on the local, state and national level to further gun responsibility:
- Implement anti-bullying programs for girls and boys beginning early and continuing through the teen years should be incorporated in every school.
- Ensure every city and county statewide have the tools necessary to establish a firearm surrender program like the one Seattle and King County are creating.
- Invest in public health and mental health programs, and coordinate information sharing between agencies to provide necessary help to people identified as most vulnerable.
- Require training programs like those we take to get our drivers’ licenses and permits to carry a gun.
- Provide local authority to cities and towns to ban guns from parks, community centers, and other public locations. The City tried this before; it’s time to try again.
- Restrict large capacity ammunition magazines.
- Pass Crisis Prevention Legislation that would make it so that people who have been through a 72-hour mental health holds may not possess firearms for a certain period after their release. This ensures people who are at risk of harming themselves or others do not have ready access to a firearm in their crisis state.
- Ban assault weapons in Washington State. I stood with Attorney General Bob Ferguson when he proposed legislation in January would ban assault weapons in Washington State. Our state legislature must act on this legislation this year.
- Fully fund mental health.
- Increase penalties for people who sell guns to criminals, violent offenders, and young adults.
- Grant ATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) the authority to require dealer inventory checks to detect lost and stolen guns and fund them enough to be successful.
- Allow the CDC to research firearm related deaths. With more data, we can get to better results.
- Keep loaded guns away from children and in a locked storage container.
Enough is enough, please join me in demanding more. Our country’s safety and our humanity, depends on it.