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Topic: gun control
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January 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Washingtonians have a history of confronting controversial issues head-on through ballot measures.
Voters in recent years have affirmed same-sex marriage and legalized recreational marijuana. This past November, the city of SeaTac’s electorate raised the minimum wage for airport workers to the highest level in the nation.
On deck: Gun control. Not just one initiative. Two!
Expect the dueling measures to spark a passionate, attention-grabbing and expensive debate, which will begin during the legislative session and likely extend through the November elections. Here’s Seattle Times reporter Brian Rosenthal’s latest news story on the signature-gathering process. The secretary of state’s office reports both initiatives have more than enough signatures to qualify for a place on the November ballot.
Initiative 594 would require background checks for all sales. Initiative 591 would limit mandatory checks to sales by licensed dealers and prohibit government officials from removing guns from citizens without due process. (more…)
December 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The serial tragedies of gun violence perpetrated by young men provoke two responses, depending on which adjective you focus on: gun or mentally unstable.
I ranted in October that proposed public policies to address recent shooting incidents got lost in the shouting about the first adjective. Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were culpable because they wouldn’t decouple mental health improvements from the gun issue, believing, I suspect, that is the only way the latter will pass.
Well, something happened last week that gives me hope.
November 27, 2013 at 6:10 AM
Leadership is all about getting out in front of controversial issues, even when the best of intentions are often willfully misread. A holiday campaign to reduce the threat of gun violence for children via discounts on gun safes, lockboxes and trigger locks is an absolute winner.
The “Safe Storage Saves Lives” campaign developed by Public Health – Seattle and King County is an inspired effort to promote the use of safety devices on weapons kept in thousands of homes. Congratulations to public health director Dr. David Fleming, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sheriff John Urquhart, participating gun dealers, and 20 participating law enforcement agencies for stepping forward Monday to promote the ideal holiday shopping event. Thank you.
As explained at this King County site, starting November 25, 2013 through December of 2014, mention Public Health or LOK-IT_UP and receive 10-15 percent off select storage devices or lock boxes at participating retailers. The initial list of 15 shops and their locations is at the site.
Proximity to firearms is reflected in tragic statistics available for review via this county link. Homicides, accidents and suicides aided and abetted by easy access to weapons. The risks and hazards are compounded students who show up on school grounds with guns from home. (more…)
November 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times Editorial Page. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Bruce Ramsey come down on opposite sides of a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling supporting state law forbidding guns to persons arrested for, but not yet convicted of, a gun crime.
Lynne, take a look at the case of Roy Steven Jorgenson of Woodland, Cowlitz County, which came down Nov. 21 from the Washington Supreme Court. He was arrested of shooting someone and was about to be tried for first degree assault. Out on bail, he was arrested for having a 9-mm handgun and AR-15 rifle in his car. He wasn’t threatening anyone and wasn’t defending himself. He just had them. And under the state law forbidding possession of weapons by anyone charged with a serious crime, he was convicted of illegal possession.
At the Washington Supreme court he argued that the law violated his constitutional right to bear arms. Five justices—Steven González, Barbara Madsen, Debra Stephens, Susan Owens and Mary Fairhurst—disagreed, and the court ruled against him. They did not argue that the law was needed to defend the public, but that the Legislature thought it was, and that the court should defer to the Legislature under a rule of “intermediate scrutiny.”
Justice Charles Wiggins wrote the main dissent, signed by justices Charles Johnson, Jim Johnson and Tom Chambers. (Apart from González, Lynne, this is a case of the women versus the men.) The law was unconstitutional, Wiggins argued, because it applied to everyone charged for certain offenses, and that violated due process of law—the 14th Amendment. In Wiggins’ view, this was not about the right to own guns. “It is entirely appropriate to prohibit some individuals accused of a serious crime from possessing firearms,” Wiggins wrote (italics mine). But he argued that an accused person accused ought to have the chance to argue for himself and have a judge make a decision specific to him.
Jim Johnson, the court’s conservative, said he agreed with Wiggins on due process, but another thing bothered him. The majority had used “intermediate scrutiny.” When a fundamental right is at stake, he said, the court should use strict scrutiny, which means the law had to be “narrowly tailored” to achieve a “compelling governmental interest.” Washington’s law isn’t.
I agree with Wiggins and Jim Johnson. Firearm ownership is an individual right, whether we like it or not. (And the majority opinion by González admits this.) The judge should have been allowed to suspend that right for Jorgenson (and probably would have, too) by citing risks specific to him. A blanket prohibition pokes too large a hole in a constitutional right.
Bruce, I’ll take your argument apart in a second. But first, let me start with the question of why anyone would need to drive around with a 9-mm Tokarev and an Olympic Arms AR-15 rifle in their car? Is he on the lam from the mob? Does he have a Napoleon complex and need the extra metal, so to speak?
I know about our Second Amendment rights. But I am tired of gun owners ending up on the front page crying about how they did not know fill-in-the-blank-name-of-shooting-victim would get a hold of the weapons and shoot themselves or others. Then, once their lax gun ownership responsibilities have created a mess, they look to taxpayer-funded emergency and social services to clean it up. Want to know what I’ll be thankful for on Thursday? When I do not have to hear another gun owner tell me why they have the right to walk around armed like they’re headed to Afghanistan.
But I digress.
The case before the state Supreme Court was about intermediate versus strict scrutiny, the difference between narrow application of a goal needed to achieve a compelling public interest and something broader. State law prohibits people from having a firearm if they have been released on bond after a judge has found probable cause to believe the person committed a serious offense. The law is a preventative measure erring on the side of pubic safety.
“The State has an important interest in restricting potentially dangerous persons from using firearms,” Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote in the majority opinion.
You note that Roy Jorgenson was arrested under suspicion of shooting someone. It was more than that Bruce. He was released on bond after a trial court found probable cause that he had indeed shot someone. The justice system weighed the evidence against Jorgenson and found it credible enough to continue moving the case forward. As the majority opinion noted, when a trial judge finds probably cause, public safety justifies temporarily limiting a person’s right to possess firearms. Note the word “temporary.”
Firearm ownership is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. But your right to bear arms should not extend to putting the public at greater risk. State law, reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, strikes the right balance.
October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in the classroom.
This New York Times story noted the public is less than enamored with the idea.
#Guncontrol and #schoolshooting began trending on social media minutes after CNN and other news outlets reported two people had been killed and two others were in serious condition after a shooting rampage Monday morning at a Nevada middle school.
Sparks Middle School, located just outside of Reno, was evacuated quickly. Parents picked up their kids. District authorities have gone from tweeting “Code Red” to offering Twitter updates from the crime scene. A new name joins Newtown and other schools in that macabre section of the American lexicon reserved for mass school shootings. Public discourse on social media quickly turned to gun control, a debate that illustrates better than any other policy issue, America’s stark political divide.
Tweeting under the name @globaloutrage, Jack Scharber asked:
“Another day in America. Another school shooting. When are we going to confront the awful root causes of this senselessness?”
“Another shooting in America kills more innocent kids. Their obsession with guns is destroying the country.”
Time for another run at comprehensive gun control. The kind that includes background checks and other safeguards argued for by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, most recently here. I’m not too hopeful this latest shooting will be the catalyst that moves people from their fixed positions on both sides of the debate. That is because the problem has never been a lack of political effort to better regulate guns, the problem is that these efforts never get very far. The heavy thumb of the Second Amendment lobby tamps down on anything that hints of gun safety legislation. A prime example can be found in this piece by the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm. The powerful gun lobby brags about the veto by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) of gun control legislation last June. The article calls New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “an extremist” for promoting sensible gun control through “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
The exception may be Washington state, where almost enough signatures have been secured to mount an initiative calling for universal background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594 would go first to the Legislature. But if lawmakers failed to pass the measure, it would go to voters in 2014, a Times blog reported. Among those helping secure signatures here was Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 shooting rampage at the Seattle Jewish Federation. This Washington Post story warns of the uphill battle gun control advocates face in Washington state.
If I’m correct and this latest tragedy failed to move beyond #Nevadashooting on Twitter, then it sadly is just another day in America.
September 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Editor’s note: Osa Hale is an intern in our opinion section. She just graduated from Western Washington University.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the organization Washington CeaseFire have introduced a “Gun-Free Zone” program, encouraging businesses to exercise their rights to ban guns from their private property. This is a quick and easy attempt to stand up to gun violence.
Starbucks said Tuesday it would join the gun-free program in an open letter from Chief Executive Howard Schultz.
Although it makes sense to try to remove guns from the equation, the gun-free program seems like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a leaky bucket. It’s better than nothing, but not by much.
Gun-rights advocates like Alan Gottlieb, who founded the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, see the program as all flash and no substance.
“[The mayor] could do lots of other things to prevent crime,” Gottlieb said. “Punish those people who misuse firearms, not those who own and use them properly.”
Gottlieb went on to say the program could actually endanger customers. (more…)
September 19, 2013 at 6:29 AM
The whole flap about Starbucks and guns strikes me as so much posturing.
In an open letter, Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz has disinvited customers carrying guns from coming into a Starbucks. But he has also said that if they do come in they will be served, because he doesn’t want Starbucks employees having to ask an armed person to leave.
That is about what you’d expect a retailer to say. Starbucks is in the coffee business. It doesn’t want to have to ask customers to leave. And it doesn’t want to set up hostile situations for its employees. Schultz’s job isn’t to change society, or even to be intellectually bold. It’s to sell coffee.
Apparently his letter was written because the rabid gunners, who exercise their right to carry openly, have been having “Starbucks Appreciation Days” in Starbucks stores. And naturally, when some posse comes showing off personal artillery, other customers clear out. But how many gun owners do this?
I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen anyone with a gun at Starbucks, except maybe a cop.
The AP story, out of New York, compares the statement about guns with the company’s ban on smoking within 25 feet of its stores. But a smoking ban is real, because smoking in public is a public act. Carrying a gun is not, unless you choose to pull it out.
All the difference in the world.
May 7, 2013 at 7:16 AM
A nonprofit group called Defense Distributed is providing instructions on how to make a gun with a 3-D printer. The plastic gun can evade metal detectors by leaving out a metal weight. According to this report by MSNBC and NBC anchor/correspondent Richard Lui, the gun can be made in four hours. Defense Distributed is providing the designs at its website, but as of Tuesday morning, the feature was not working.
Defense Distributed calls itself a “wiki weapon project” to defend the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. The MSNBC report says it requires four hours to print on an $8,000 printer.
On its website, Defense Distributed said its goal is to develop designs for cheaper printers. Here is its stated purpose:
To defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest.
This is frightening news, and not just because it echoes the plot line of the 1993 movie “In the Line of Fire.” (Here is the IMDB recap” of the movie, in which a killer gets a plastic gun through a metal detector and attempts to kill the U.S. president.) We are already worried about terrorists who want to blow up planes with explosives molded into underwear. Now we have to worry about plastic guns? Will our next TSA screening require the removal of all plastic items from our carry-ons?
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a ban on the plastic guns, according to the MSNBC report. I don’t see how a ban is going to survive a Second Amendment defense.
I am an advocate for controlling these weapons in some way, but Defense Distributed makes me throw up my hands in WTH disgust. (WTH = What the hell.) Because the problem with laws is that many are outdated by the time they survive the rigors of lawmaker debate and lawsuits. Trying to stop an army of 3-D printer owners with legislation? If the government shuts down Defense Distributed, another online outfit will pop up. The horse has left the barn.
April 23, 2013 at 7:40 AM
Federal Way shootings turned my thoughts back to gun control. According to The Seattle Times news story, witnesses were hunted down and killed by the gunman after he shot his girlfriend. He had a history of domestic violence.
After the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Colorado state Legislature passed a bill that would have stopped domestic abusers from purchasing guns. The state also closed the gun-show loophole that allows buyers to get around undergoing a background check.
A bill to expand background checks failed in Washington state. Read our March editorial calling out lawmakers for favoring gun lobbyists over the people of Washington state, who overwhelmingly support the measure.
Here is some more food for thought from opinion writers:
March 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I’ve made it clear in column after column that the public should have little tolerance for zero tolerance school discipline policies. Here’s another reason not to. A 7-year-old Maryland boy was suspended for two days for chewing a strawberry breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun and saying, “Bang, bang.” In Pennsylvania, a 5-year-old was suspended for talking to classmates about shooting her “Hello Kitty” gun. The “gun” blows bubbles.
I get it. Schools are on high alert since Newtown. And I don’t disagree that when students present a real threat to others, they must be removed immediately. But the above cases didn’t come close to reaching that bar. Any infractions below that level can, and should, be handled at school by a team that includes the principal, school counselor/psychologist, parents and the students.