Tragedy struck our country early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine people killed in an attack on that city’s LGBTQ community, dozens more injured.
This was a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism, just like the mass shooting perpetrated by a white supremacist at an African-American church in Charleston one year ago this month. These tragedies are all too familiar, but we must not let ourselves become desensitized.
At Sunday's memorial vigil at Cal Anderson Park, I was moved by the diversity of the crowd, the heartfelt emotions, and the many discussions about pursuing actions that will make a difference.
Mayor Murray spoke from his heart, sharing deeply held values. I think he’s at his best when he is providing this kind of clear, values-based leadership. You can read his full remarks here.
In December 2012, following the horrific Sandy Hook killings, I proposed several steps we could pursue as a state to reduce gun violence. The people of Washington overwhelmingly passed universal background checks after the Legislature failed to act.
But the rest of the list remains stalled in Olympia: A ban on all assault weapons; a ban on large capacity ammunition magazines that fuel semi-automatic weapons; trigger locks and safe storage requirements; and micro-stamping technology in all firearms sold, purchased or delivered in the state to improve the capabilities of police in tracing fired bullets.
I have yet to hear a legitimate reason for any civilian to own an assault rifle—a weapon designed to kill at a mass scale. Sadly, just like they do in Washington, D.C., the gun lobby has an incredible grip on our state legislators.
We’ve acted in Seattle where we can. We became the first city in the country to fund research on the impacts of gun violence. We created a special tax on firearms and ammunition to fund gun violence research and prevention efforts. We have funded a promising hospital-based intervention program for victims of gun violence at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
But action is needed at the state and national levels. I yearn for a cultural change in how our members of Congress and our representatives in Olympia view the role of guns in our society. And it’s not that gun safety measures are unpopular: poll results show how some of the simplest, most common sense gun safety measures have wide support among Americans (including gun owners), but still can’t muster support in Congress or the State Legislature.
As President Obama reminds us, we are the only country in the world that continually faces these sorts of avoidable tragedies—and chooses to do nothing about it.
Tim Burgess is a member of the Seattle City Council.