Gun ownership is a significant responsibility, and yet more than 40 percent of King County gun owners acknowledge they don’t lock up their firearms when they’re stored.
I’m heartbroken, and frankly, I’m angry. You probably are too.
Guns are used to kill men, women and children at tragic rates here in King County and across our nation. Yet our national and state leaders continue to sit on their hands and do nothing. It’s unconscionable.
King County lost 151 residents to firearm injury in 2016, the most recent year we have data, and seven of those were children 17 or younger. That’s one life lost every two-and-a-half days.
A woman is five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence situation if a gun is present. And adolescents with access to firearms are nearly three times as likely to commit suicide. In fact, Washington state lost 47 young lives to suicide by gun between 2013 and 2015.
This is unacceptable.
That’s why on Tuesday, I’m introducing three pieces of legislation to ensure King County is doing its part to help stop these tragedies.
We’re calling it the King County Gun Safety Action Plan. In my role as Metropolitan King County Council chair and a member of the King County Board of Health, I’m kicking off this effort by introducing these initiatives that have the potential to save lives.
First, I propose that public safety warning signs be posted at any place of firearm sale or discharge in King County, which will articulate the very real and significant risks to health and life inherent with firearm ownership. These signs will also provide immediate contact information for suicide-prevention and mental-health resources for individuals who might be in crisis. Once passed by the Board of Health, signs will be placed at the entrances and purchase counters of every shooting range and store selling guns in King County.
I also propose a county ordinance requiring firearm owners to securely store their guns at all times — whether at home, in a car or anywhere else. Gun ownership is a significant responsibility. And ensuring that your gun doesn’t end up in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have it — a child, someone in a moment of crisis or domestic abuse — is the least that we should require.
It is a cynical and dangerous twist of logic that the NRA, which promotes responsible gun ownership, is suing Seattle for its recent safe-storage law. The fact is that 43 percent of King County gun owners admit to storing their firearms unlocked. We cannot wait to enact this basic, common sense requirement.
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The third item of the Gun Safety Action Plan addresses the gun violence experienced specifically by children. The unthinkable tragedies that have occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School and locally at Marysville Pilchuck High School are events that have galvanized us. But gun violence is more than these horrific events, and to limit our work would be to ignore the experience of King County residents who live with gun violence every day.
I’m proposing a wide-ranging analysis of strategies to address community-based violence with youth and young adults playing a central, meaningful role in the development of this report and recommendations. We must be a catalyst for hope and options to the young people who feel like a gun is the only way to protect themselves. This youth-led report will tell us what we can do to create new opportunities or grow them where they already exist.
These three proposals are just the start.
We’ll now also embark on generating a policy to-do list that any resident can contribute to at kingcountycantwait.org. We need your ideas and solutions.
Sadly, this list will be missing many important proposals. Why? Because the state of Washington has a law on the books that specifically prevents local jurisdictions from taking more direct and concrete actions to keep our residents safe.
So it’s our state leaders who have the opportunity to ban assault weapons, raise the firearm purchase age to 21 for semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, require training to obtain a carry permit, and establish a waiting period between the purchase and possession of a firearm.
We should expect and demand state lawmakers use their power to save lives, or at the very least, get out of the way and give us the ability to do it ourselves.
King County simply can’t wait.