Seattle lawmakers are busy brainstorming ways of tweaking gun laws to put a cap on the violence we've experienced so far this year. But it's a long, tedious process, further complicated by the fact that state law prevents city officials from striking out on their own—our city gun laws, rules, ordinances, whathaveyou, can't be more restrictive than the state's own laws (and our gun-humping state legislature has a terrible track record passing gun restrictions).
In the meantime, Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell has at least one good idea for changing Seattle's gun culture, and it involves God. Harrell says he's spoken with a number of pastors about putting together a gang outreach program that would combine clergy members with other mentoring organizations to get gang members off the streets and in work or education programs.
The program is tentatively titled, "Saving the Streets and Saving Souls" (SSS).
Harrell pictures clergy members and mentoring organizations offering at-risk youth paths to education and job training, and a spiritual safety net. He imagines setting up anonymous gun drop-offs to get firearms off the streets. "We have to have safe drop-offs where grandmothers, aunts, uncles, friends, can turn in guns without inquiries or questions," Harrell says. "Then change the culture by messaging in all communities that we need to get these guns off the streets."
"Every pastor I've spoken to has absolutely loved the idea," he continues. "Church is a huge part of neighborhood culture, especially in the south end. This is a way to help kids get back on the right track while hopefully cutting down on gang and gun violence."
At this point, Harrell says he's not sure where such drop-offs would be appropriate (my vote's for the Puyallup Fair!) but he's busy crafting a fall budget proposal to fund SSS. "In my mind, it would be nice for $500,000," says Harrell.
I'd bet my bottom bunker that Slog has plenty of great ideas for where anonymous gun drop-offs would be appropriate.
Here's why Harrell believes something like SSS is necessary: "In the minds of the law, you can have four people that all look alike: all selling drugs, all gang-related, all committing crimes," he says. "But these are individuals—three of those four could be bullied by the fourth. What these outreach workers are capable of doing is understanding their individual stories. It could involve arrest, it could involve rehabilitation. But until we understand the stories of these unique individuals, we’re going to struggle with how to deal with them. Because what we’re doing now, using the same approach, isn’t working."