Preventing the next school shooting might be at the heart of it but data show helping to prevent suicides could be an equally important outcome of new gun control legislation sent to the Seattle City Council this week by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
“The roots of gun violence are complex, but we know that unsecured, unsafely stored guns help fuel this crisis of violence because they are more likely to cause tragic accidents, fall into the wrong hands, or be used in suicides,” Durkan said in announcing the new legislation. “Requiring that gun owners safely store their guns can help make our communities safer places to live.”
The legislation proposed by the former U.S. District Attorney would require “safe storage of firearms” and will increase “civil penalties and legal responsibility” for owners who don’t report stolen firearms within 24 hours as is already required by law.
New research from the University of Washington shows nearly two in three gun-owning households in Washington State do not safely store their firearms and there is “substantial increased suicide risk among individuals in firearm-owning households.”
In March, Durkan and City Council member Lorena González, who will be the prime sponsor on the bill, announced the push for the new law. The legislation joins a growing roster of efforts by Seattle to better regulate guns at a local level. In 2015, the City Council passed legislation to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales to fund gun violence prevention research. With the tax upheld by the State Supreme Court, the plan will invest 2018 revenue and future gun and ammo tax revenues in the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center. In 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to conduct basic research on gun safety.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department launched a new site, seattle.gov/ERPO to help residents apply for Extreme Risk Protection Orders. “An ERPO was designed to give family, household members, and law enforcement a way to petition the court to restrict the access and ability for a person with health crisis issues to purchase or possess firearms,” the city says. As of March, 18 ERPOs had been petitioned by law enforcement with 37 weapons recovered. In last week’s shooting threats incident at Seattle U, an ERPO was issued to prevent the suspect from having access to firearms.
“The level of gun violence in our communities is not normal, and we can never think it is inevitable. We – and especially our children – should not have to live like this,” Durkan said. “With Congress in the grip of the D.C. gun lobby and too many state legislatures failing to act, our cities must lead the way – and we must all continue to demand action that saves lives.”
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