We must keep firearms away from violent offenders | Guest editorial

It’s common sense.

  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 8:30am
  • Opinion
Rep. Amy Walen. Photo courtesy of Amy Walen

Rep. Amy Walen. Photo courtesy of Amy Walen

By Amy Walen

Special to the Reporter

Gun violence in the United States is one of our nation’s biggest modern tragedies.

It’s happening in our schools, on the streets of our communities and in our homes. No one should experience such violence. Yet it seems every few weeks, we mourn, we send “thoughts and prayers” to another family for their loss and we move on until the media cycle begins again.

We know that’s not enough for families who have lost loved ones. Not when 2019 became the deadliest year on record for mass shootings.

Less than a month into 2020, gunfire exploded through downtown Seattle. The evening streets were full of life — bustling with rush hour commuters and people nearing the end of their daily routines when shots rang out. One person was killed, while seven others — including a 9-year-old child —

were injured. Dozens more ran for their lives. Everyone involved will live with the trauma and fear of that night for the rest of their lives.

Mass shootings aren’t the only gun problem we have. Nationally, more than half of lethal domestic violence cases involve firearms — on average, 52 women each month will be shot and killed by an abusive partner. In Washington, 78 percent of gun deaths in 2018 were by suicide. The youngest of these preventable deaths were two 12-year old boys.

Enough is enough.

Washington voters put common sense reforms in place to stop the spread of all forms of gun violence. In 2018, the people of Washington passed Initiative 1639 to reduce mass shootings and overall gun violence statewide, but there’s still more work to do to keep firearms away from people who should not have them.

I have proposed two solutions to keep our communities safe from gun violence. First, we can stop people convicted of animal cruelty or unlawfully discharging a firearm from owning a gun. Animal abuse is a key indicator of future mass violence against people — those who abuse animals are five times as likely to act violently against people.

Second, if you can’t buy a gun legally, you shouldn’t be able to buy ammunition. We have background checks for guns to keep violent offenders from purchasing weapons, but not for ammunition. Fourteen states across the country, including Louisiana, Nevada and Texas, have already passed this simple, commonsense measure to prevent more unnecessary violence. We should be like Texas and pass this bill.

I grew up in a rural community in a family of law-abiding gun owners. We used firearms to hunt and keep our farm running, so I understand firsthand the gravity that comes with owning and using firearms. This isn’t about rolling back rights for responsible gun owners who follow the law. This is about preventing those with violent criminal backgrounds from getting access deadly weapons.

The fact is that gun violence will never go away if we continue to only send “thoughts and prayers” without fixing the holes in our laws that make it too easy for people kill others. Our communities are resilient, but we can do a better job to support families affected by these tragedies by providing actual solutions that keep everyone in Washington safe.

Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland) represents the 48th Legislative District of Washington state.

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