Gun violence is a public health issue | Guest editorial

  • Tuesday, November 7, 2017 8:30am
  • Opinion

Meredith Goldstein. Courtesy photo

By Meredith Goldstein

Alliance of Gun Responsibility

In 1997, I was 37 weeks pregnant with the first of our two sons when my husband Jay and I moved to Kirkland. At the time, we envisioned our children playing in Kirkland’s beautiful parks and attending its terrific public schools — all of which became a reality. However, one thing that we never envisioned was a world in which it was necessary for our children to practice active-shooter drills in those schools. Unfortunately, that too became a reality. Welcome to 2017.

I love my children with every atom in my body. So I’m sure I don’t need to explain why, when children were being targeted by guns in high schools and football fields and elementary schools and movie theaters, that I couldn’t sit idly by and do nothing. I started volunteering in the gun violence prevention world after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Since then, I’ve learned that an average of 93 people die every day in our country because of gun violence. Every. Single. Day. The causes are myriad and include homicide, suicide, domestic violence, accidents and more.

For each of those 93 people whose lives are cut short, no matter the cause, 93 families and communities are left dealing with the sadness, grief and trauma. Because we have lived through this situation in Kirkland, we know that the impact of gun violence has a ripple effect, lasting long past the shooting itself.

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history this past weekend, which happened just one month after the largest mass shooting in the United States, there’s a lot of talk about how we should not politicize guns so soon after such a tragedy. But by that logic, any day is too soon.

My work in this area has taught me that we have to take a public health approach to gun violence. We must study it as the complex public health issue that it is. No one law or idea or executive order can prevent all gun violence. We need a network of policies and programs that work together to help prevent gun violence from every angle, every side.

But we have to start somewhere and in fact, we’ve made progress. Over the past three years, Washingtonians have strongly supported common sense gun laws.

In 2014, Washington state overwhelmingly passed Initiative 594, making our state the first in the country to close the gun show loophole and implement universal background checks. Since December 2014, when the law took effect, there have been at least 29,692 private background checks and 201 private gun sales to dangerous individuals were prevented. Progress!

In 2016, Washingtonians supported extreme risk protection orders, which gives families who are concerned their loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others a resource to temporarily remove firearms from the situation. Washingtonians and residents of the 45th Legislative District turned out in droves to successfully support this policy. And this year, the Legislature passed the most comprehensive gun responsibility law to date in our state: the Law Enforcement and Victim Safety bill.

The support of many gun owners was very important to these efforts. Most know that owning a gun is an important responsibility and treat it with the respect required. We wouldn’t have seen such strong majorities for these policies if responsible gun owners didn’t also see their value and show up at the ballot.

So, what do we do next? I know many of us feel the desire for change and action after tragedies like Texas and Las Vegas. Let’s keep having this important conversation about guns in our communities, even when it gets hard. If one additional person keeps their guns safely locked up after reading this, or removes them from a home (even temporarily) during a volatile situation, maybe we Kirkland citizens can save a life.

While the next legislative session in 2018 seems light years away, our legislators are already planning for it. Now is the perfect time for them to hear from the voters. Find out who your elected officials are, learn more about gun violence prevention and write them about how you support common sense action on guns.

Gun violence is an issue that will define the future for our kids and grandkids. We can’t afford to be silent.

Meredith Goldstein is a Kirkland resident of 15-plus years and sits on the board of directors of the Alliance of Gun Responsibility, which works to end the gun violence crisis in our community and to promote a culture of gun ownership that balances rights with responsibilities.

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