The question that never gets answered: How many more shootings will it take before we take meaningful action?
I wish it were harder to believe that it happened again.
Every time I hear about another shooting, seeing the news coverage estimating the lives taken in the latest senseless act of preventable violence, my heart breaks all over again.
I know how close my family came to feeling the pain of the 58 families who lost their loved ones in Las Vegas. I know there are three families in the Mukilteo community who still do.
My son, Will, was shot in the back last July by an angry young man with a military-style assault weapon. It was a nightmare come to life. The police came to my house about 2:30 in the morning to notify us that we needed to go to Harborview Hospital to be with Will. As we were driving to Harborview from Mukilteo, we didn’t know what condition my son would be in when we got there, or whether he would even be alive.
When we got there, we were told that Will was seriously injured with heavy blood loss from both the entry and the exit wounds, a lacerated lung, lung contusions, a shattered shoulder blade, a cracked rib, internal bleeding and multiple bullet fragments lodged in tissues in his left shoulder. The bullet narrowly missed his spine, broke up upon hitting his scapula, with fragments fortunately missing his heart and arteries.
He spent 17 days in the hospital, including surgery to reattach his collapsed left lung.
With profound gratitude, my son Will has recovered from his physical wounds and returned to the University of Washington, where he is now in his junior year studying Environmental Science & Resource Management.
Three of his friends — beautiful, promising young students — were brutally murdered.
The attacker who injured Will and killed Anna Bui, Jake Long and Jordan Ebner was 19. He walked into a local Cabela’s and walked out with a military-style assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine the same day. No enhanced background check was required.
Last September, I stood with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, community leaders, and a handful of courageous legislators, including state Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and state Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, to support a statewide ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines. I support this legislation for many reasons, but primarily because it will save lives.
Seven states ban the sale of assault weapons. Washington is not one of them. Six states and the District of Columbia cap the magazine capacity at 10 rounds of ammunition. Washington has no limit on magazine capacity.
In Washington, you must be at least 21 to purchase a handgun. But an 18-year-old can purchase a military-style, semi-automatic assault weapon. This makes no sense.
In Washington, handgun purchases require enhanced law enforcement background checks and an effective waiting period of up to 10 days. Purchasing an assault weapon? No enhanced background check. Not even a one-day waiting period.
Assault weapons have military-style features designed for one purpose: killing humans. One of those military-style features — a pistol grip — allowed the Las Vegas murderer to outfit his weapon with a modification that allowed him to “bump fire” his semi-automatic weapons as if they were fully automatic machine guns.
His arsenal included other modifications, including forward grips, collapsible stocks and high-capacity magazines that held more than twice as many rounds as magazines used by our armed forces in combat. Ferguson’s bill would ban weapons with these military-style features.
All of these modifications served one purpose: To increase the speed at which he could murder, and all of these modifications can be purchased without restriction at a sporting-goods store.
Banning semi-automatic weapons with pistol grips and other tactical modifications dramatically limits how quickly an individual can murder large numbers of innocent people.
Banning these weapons can have a real impact. A database created by Mother Jones magazine showed an increase in the use of assault weapons in mass shootings since the assault-rifle ban was lifted in 2004. And a recent analysis by CNN conducted by a Boston University professor also showed states that have limited magazine capacity had a 63 percent lower rate of mass shootings.
Last year, I stood next to Attorney General Ferguson and testified in support of his proposed legislation that would require enhanced background checks for all purchases of assault weapons. The Legislature failed to even take a vote in committee. He pledged to continue proposing both bills until they pass — and I pledge to continue standing with him until they do.
How many more shootings will it take before we take meaningful action?