Washington state can be a model for the nation on confronting the cycle of gun violence.
AFTER Andrew Parker watched his daughter Alison die on live television, he insisted that “it can’t be that hard” for America to act against gun violence. He is right that our task is clear: We must directly confront the law and our culture that have created an intolerable moment in our country’s relationship with guns.
Each new tragedy, such as the killings of the television journalists in Virginia, seems more disheartening than the last. Yet since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, we’ve made more progress on strong gun laws than at any point in recent memory.
While gun violence remains unacceptably high, and Congress has failed to lead, states and cities are passing smart policies that save lives. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that 117 bills strengthening gun laws had been passed in 39 states as of 2015. Washington state has added to this total with bills like the Sheena Henderson Act and Joel’s Law.
Related guest opinion: Don’t misconstrue causes when trying to stop gun violence
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The groundswell that began after Sandy Hook has been shaped into a nationwide network of millions of citizens committed to confronting the root causes of gun violence. They are using their voices to push for new approaches that save lives and are demanding the research and policy that would have impact.
Washington voters passed Initiative 594, which expanded background checks to private sales like some of those found online or at gun shows. The vote, in part, was an acknowledgment that states with strong gun laws see far fewer gun deaths than those with weak gun laws. The Center for Gun Responsibility, the organization that I lead, is hard at work finding and implementing the most effective programs and policies that prevent the harms from gun violence. Here’s what we’re working on:
• Supporting original research into what motivates and enables violent people to take lives
• Funding new programs that provide tools and data to directly benefit community well-being, such as those recently passed in Seattle
• Advocating for evidence-based laws, such as “extreme-risk protection orders,” which help keep guns out of irresponsible hands
• Providing public education on how gun violence must be treated as a public-health crisis and focusing on past violence as the best predictor of future violence
• Building alliances and partnerships between groups, from gun-owners to law enforcement, which believe in gun responsibility
The demand for strong gun laws is shared by Americans of all walks of life. The enormity of our gun-violence crisis demands that we leave behind old biases and unproductive conflicts.
Take our law-enforcement community. The reality is that law enforcement is helping to identify policies that measurably reduce firearm deaths and injuries. The role of the Center for Gun Responsibility is to develop these kinds of partnerships so that our collective energy, and our best minds, are focused on finding meaningful solutions.
Our task will not be easy. The path ahead will involve honest and often uncomfortable conversations about violence, inequality, mental health and more. Special interests will attempt to convince us that we are powerless to take action to make our communities safer.
Change begins by creating the space for meaningful progress on innovative policy and research with a single goal: to bend the needle on gun violence and save lives.
Washington state will again be a model for the nation on confronting the cycle of gun violence. Our movement has achieved so much in so little time. I hope you will join us as we focus on the questions of public and mental health, suicide prevention, law, violence and equality that lie at the heart of gun violence in our country.