It's not too soon to discuss solutions to gun violence, mental health problems
Boise mother Liza Long set off a firestorm over the weekend when her essay about her fear of her own son's behavior was posted on her personal blog and in The Blue Review. It went viral. Long has experienced some backlash, but I applaud her bravery for bringing an important issue to the forefront.
Everyone struggles at times to cope with life's challenges, but we really need people to speak up and ask for help when they need it. And we need to figure out ways to respond to those pleas for help.
I don't have any easy answers, but I know that pent up frustration doesn't just hurt families. It affects public health.
Twenty children were shot to death last Friday in a public elementary school. Six of their teachers and administrators died trying to protect them. The local medical examiner reported they were each fired upon multiple times — some took as many as 11 bullets.
I'm angry. The feeling isn't going to subside anytime soon.
Not only were the victims powerless against a mentally unstable person — they were the senseless targets of a gun capable of shooting off 30 rounds without being reloaded. Soldiers often deploy such weapons to fight their enemies on the battlefield — not a classroom of children.
This is the time to talk about gun control and mental health. They are not isolated issues. Both affect the general public's health and safety.
Gun control isn't about banishing Second Amendment rights. No one is saying that we shouldn't be able to access arms. Go ahead and go to gun ranges. Go hunting. Protect yourself, if you feel you really need it.
I'm saying there's a middle ground position that can still protect children and the public from another mass killing.
On Monday, former Republican congressman and television host Joe Scarborough reversed his long-standing stance against gun control. At least two senators with "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association joined him in calling specifically for limits on semiautomatic assault rifles.
Seattle Times reporter Kyung Song talked to members of Washington's delegation. Most Democrats are openly supportive of an assault weapons ban. Republicans are also reflecting on possible measures:
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, one of the House Republican leaders, said through a spokeswoman that she would work to make sure "what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, never happens again."
Let's hold their feet to the fire. I know there's other pressing matters, including fiscal cliff negotiations, but we cannot wait.
Guns continue to fall in the wrong hands.
Over the weekend, a man fired 50 shots in the air at an Orange County mall. According to the Huffington Post, it was his "way of venting his life problems."
The San Antonio Express-News reported yet another theater shooting. Two were wounded.
Here in Washington, I skimmed the newspaper and saw that there were at least two shootings over the weekend — one of them was a drive-by incident in Sumner that killed one and injured three others.
None of these incidents compare to Newtown, but all are examples of irresponsible gun ownership and serious behavioral issues that must be addressed through a mix of personal responsibility, local and federal legislation.
This week, I welcomed this news report on the Seattle City Council's decision to include common sense gun control measures in its legislative agenda:
The council called on its city lobbyists to seek in the 2013 Legislature a ban on all assault weapons; a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines; universal background checks that include gun shows; trigger locks and storage requirements; and microstamping technology on all firearms to improve the capability of police to trace fired bullets.
Previous efforts have apparently gone nowhere. The Newtown massacre should be a game-changer.
As the article notes, Washington has led the way on marijuana and same-sex legalization.
I believe we're also capable of leading the way in reforming gun laws and changing how people view and respond to mental health issues.
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