Our communities and especially schools must be a place where children are safe.
After the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida in February, Washington’s Second Congressional District continued the conversation: what can we do to save lives and make communities safer?
Since then, I have met with Marysville and Bellingham students to hear their ideas about school safety and gun violence.
I have discussed how to keep students, teachers and staff safe while at school during a roundtable with Snohomish County school district superintendents, school board leadership and local law enforcement.
I also held a Community Coffee with residents at the YMCA in Marysville. Community Coffees are an opportunity to hear directly from constituents about issues important to them. I heard 22 questions throughout the afternoon. More than half were about gun violence.
And I hosted a public forum on gun violence and school safety on April 7.
During the public event, 150 people from Washington’s Second Congressional District discussed issues including responsible gun ownership, concern for children’s safety, drug and gang activity and research on mental illness.
The people I spoke with throughout all of these meetings had strong feelings on gun violence. It emphasized just how important it is to have these discussions regardless of party or ideology.
This is an issue that is deeply personal for many across the District.
Since 2008, there have been three mass shootings, as defined by the FBI, in the Second Congressional District:
· In 2016, a gunman killed five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington.
· In 2014, a student opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, killing four.
· In 2008, six people were killed in a Skagit County shooting spree.
But that isn’t the full story. In 2016, there was a major shooting in Mukilteo where three young adults were killed and a fourth was seriously injured. And several of my constituents were directly affected by the October shooting in Las Vegas.
It is important to remember that mass shootings are a highly visible, but small subset of total gun deaths in this country.
The response is like clockwork. After these tragedies, thoughts and prayers are extended and condolences are accepted, but laws do not change.
This cycle has to stop.
Since Parkland, high school students have been forced to become the face of a national movement. High school seniors should be worried about post-graduation plans, not whether someone will bring a gun to school and threaten their life.
I am proud of how students from across Washington state have stepped up to make their voices heard. During the public forum, three of these students called on the community and Congress to take responsible, commonsense steps to address gun violence and school safety.
Their bravery, leadership and hard work will make Washington’s schools and communities safer.
For elected officials, listening is important. But listening without acting is an empty gesture.
I am calling on Members on both sides of the aisle to take responsibility for what is within our control — the law.
While no law can prevent all shootings, Congress must take a few commonsense steps to reduce gun violence:
1. Ban bump-stock devices, which the Las Vegas shooter used to make semi-automatic rifles function essentially as fully automatic rifles;
2. Reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines above ten rounds and;
3. Strengthen background checks, including by closing the Charleston loophole that allowed the gunman to purchase a firearm without a completed background check.
These tragedies cannot continue to be the norm.
As I said in the forum: persist until the fight is over. Inaction is not an option. Members of Congress do not see the light until they feel the heat, so students and communities must continue to keep the pressure on elected officials.
The time is now for action on gun violence.