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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 40
How we can make Seattle - and our country - safer from gun violence
Section One
ALL STORIES
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How we can make Seattle - and our country - safer from gun violence

by Jenny Durkan
Former U.S. Attorney and
Candidate for Seattle Mayor

On Monday, we woke up to the horrific, heartbreaking news: In Las Vegas, nearly 60 of our fellow Americans had been shot and killed in the deadliest mass shooting in our nation's history, ambushed from 32 stories above by a dangerous man with an arsenal of assault-style weapons of war. 22,000 people faced an unimaginable 15 minutes of terror. More than five hundred were injured with dozens who remain in critical condition.

As we grieve for the victims and their families, we must reject the NRA's and their Republican allies' mantra that now is 'not the time' to talk about our gun laws. No - it is exactly the time to talk about our gun laws. We must acknowledge that gun violence is both a national crisis and a national shame. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. The Pulse nightclub. A congressional baseball practice. Spokane. Marysville. Moses Lake. Now, Las Vegas. But there are also so many gun tragedies that don't make the headlines. After all, 32,000 Americans are killed with a gun every single year.

Seattle has taken some important steps to confront this crisis. We require that lost or stolen guns are reported within 24 hours. We voted in 2014 to approve a statewide initiative to require criminal background checks for all gun sales. We tax gun sales and re-invest that revenue in reducing gun violence, research, and the tracking of guns in our city. The University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center's Injury Prevention and Research Center has led the nation in this research to understand the cycle of gun violence from a public health perspective.

But there is more we can do to make our city - and country - a safer place to live.

I say that as a mother, 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. When Congress couldn't act to strengthen our gun laws, I committed to do all I could as U.S. Attorney to enforce existing laws, and in Western Washington, gun prosecutions increased by 45 percent.

We worked with local law enforcement, when appropriate, to use federal prosecutorial power against defendants accused of gun crime. As Mayor, I would ensure local law enforcement has the resources to enforce existing laws, particularly around extreme risk protection orders. I'm hopeful the Council will support the five additional staff members that Mayor Burgess has proposed to enforce the new law around extreme protection orders.

But I also understand that we cannot just arrest our way out of violent crime.

Long-term solutions require bringing together a variety of resources and community efforts. We must support and expand youth violence prevention programs including Rainier Beach's highly successful, community-based 'A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth' initiative that identifies and addresses place-based causes of youth victimization and crime and increases non-arrest interventions.

And we should make public the information used to investigate gun crimes, specifically findings about trace data investigations by the SPD. While tracking or tracing gun data is not permitted at the federal level, there is evidence that we can see how firearms get into the hands of dangerous people at the local level if we support this critical work.

And we must also change our laws. I strongly support Attorney General Bob Ferguson's Assault Weapons Ban in our state.

Our Legislature should ban assault weapons, 'bump stock,' and high capacity magazines as well as impose safe storage requirements and presumed liability for any injury or death caused by failure to do so. But if they can't find the political will to do so, they should revoke the pre-emption provision that prevents Seattle from doing so. There is no reason that local jurisdictions shouldn't be able to manage gun violence in a way that is appropriate for their community. Seattle should explore all our legal options to pass these life-saving measures. It might be a tough political and legal fight, but I've taken on tough cases before and won.

We should not pretend Monday's level of carnage is inevitable. We should not accept mere 'thoughts and prayers' from our leaders. We should not accept this as an unavoidable consequence of Constitutional freedom. We cannot allow it to become the new normal.

We must act. And if Congress is going to remain in the gun lobby's grip and refuse to act, then Seattle will.

Jenny Durkan is a former United States Attorney and candidate for Mayor of Seattle.

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