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ICYMI: Keep making your voices heard and demanding action on gun violence

By Mayor Jenny Durkan
The Daily
March 22, 2018

For too long, our elected leaders have failed to protect you in your classrooms and in your communities.

For too long, after suicides, shootings, and massacres, we have offered thoughts and prayers when we these tragedies could have been prevented.

For far too long, reasonable safety measures supported by responsible gun owners are defeated by a false reading of the Second Amendment.

But you are walking out. You are standing up. And today, your voices are making a difference.

Second Amendment, meet the First Amendment.

Because too many elected leaders have been unwilling to act, students and other young people are changing the conversation.

I say that as a mother who is so proud of her son for marching and demanding that my generation do better.

I say that as a daughter of a war veteran, who taught me to use and respect the lethal power of weapons.

I say that as someone who lost a friend and fellow federal prosecutor, Tom Wales, to gun violence, and as someone who has both represented victims of gun violence and prosecuted people for violating our gun laws.

As United States Attorney, one of my top priorities was enforcing the laws already on the gun books and increasing gun prosecutions, including illegal possession and sales, particularly at gun shows.

But we can’t enforce and prosecute our way out of this public health crisis.

We need our State Legislature and our leaders in Congress to act. That includes banning assault-style rifles.

More than anything, though, Seattle should be able to act to save lives.

But we can’t take all the actions we need to. At the urging of the gun lobby, Washington State explicitly removed authority from local governments to regulate guns and ammunition. So called “pre-emption” blocks cities like Seattle from doing all we should to protect public health and public safety. It’s irresponsible.

It’s far past time for cities to be able to make our own decisions to protect our citizens.

Because every nine days, a child or teen in our state is killed by gunfire.

And it’s happening right here in our City.

In South Park in February, Dallas Esparza, who was only 16, lost his life to gun violence.

Two weeks ago at a friend’s house in Leschi, a 15-year-old girl was shot in the back.

Earlier this month at a town hall with students, I heard from many young people from across the City who are fearful in their neighborhoods.

Seattle has taken some important steps to confront this crisis including requiring reporting of lost or stolen guns within 24 hours.

But there is more we must do.

It’s why Councilmember Lorena González, members of the City Council, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and Interim Chief of Police Carmen Best are taking actions to make our City a safer place to live.

First, Councilmember Lorena González and I will be proposing legislation that will require safe storage of firearms. Unsecured, unsafely stored guns are helping fuel this crisis of violence. Children and teens are at the greatest risk of unintentional deaths, injuries and suicides from firearms. My proposal will increase civil penalties and legal responsibility for a failure to report lost or stolen firearms, which is required within 24 hours under current City law.

Second, to support gun violence survivors, I will invest revenue from our City’s guns and ammunition tax into the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center’s Injury Prevention and Research Center. They have led the nation in research to understand the cycle of gun violence from a public health perspective. It’s critical we invest in their study testing community-based intervention strategies to support the health, wellbeing, and recovery of gunshot wound victims.

Third, our City will act to build awareness on the availability of Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which help ensure that people in crisis don’t have easy access to guns. This law was approved by voters in 2016, and since it began being enforced, in partnership with a regional taskforce, our City has removed 37 guns from people in crisis based on 18 Extreme Risk Protection Order petitions. We will do more to ensure that members of our community who are concerned about a loved one know what resource is available to them. Every family member or friend should be able to help someone they think is in crisis.

So I’m committed to taking all the action that I can in Seattle. But I need your help.

So here’s my ask to you: Vote. Support a ballot initiative. March. Call. Write. Speak Out. Run for Office. Don’t Stop.

Continue to demand action from your elected officials.

We should not pretend for one second that the level of carnage in our country from guns is inevitable. We cannot allow it to become the new normal.

I know we can do better. And with your voices at the fore, I know we will.