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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

A Jinyoung Englund win would mean more inaction on gun violence in Washington State

More Amer­i­cans have been killed as a result of gun vio­lence since 1968 than have died fight­ing for our coun­try on the bat­tle­field dur­ing its entire his­to­ry, yet Con­gress — which is cur­rent­ly con­trolled by the Repub­li­can Par­ty — con­tin­ues to refuse to take any mean­ing­ful actions that would address this pan­dem­ic.

That means that in the short term, states are going to have to lead the way in iden­ti­fy­ing and enact­ing solu­tions to save lives and pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties.

With­in the last three years, Wash­ing­ton has passed two laws to respond to the scourge of gun vio­lence. The first was Ini­tia­tive 594, approved in 2014, which requires uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun sales in the state. The sec­ond was Ini­tia­tive 1491, over­whelm­ing­ly passed last year, which allows fam­i­ly mem­bers to peti­tion the judi­cia­ry for extreme risk pro­tec­tion orders.

The pas­sage of I‑594 and I‑1491 were very pos­i­tive devel­op­ments for the well-being of all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. But there is more we should be doing — much more.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because Repub­li­cans have been in con­trol of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate for the last few years, the Sen­ate has been a grave­yard of progress. Bills to require respon­si­ble gun own­er­ship have failed to gain any trac­tion, let alone a vote. In a mat­ter of weeks, though, the Sen­ate major­i­ty could flip… and if it does, it’ll be a new day in our state’s cap­i­tal, with bet­ter prospects for leg­is­la­tion we need.

Leg­is­la­tion like a new law ban­ning the sale of bump stocks, which Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Sen­ate can­di­date Man­ka Dhin­gra has said she will intro­duce imme­di­ate­ly.

(Dhin­gra is vying to rep­re­sent the 45th Dis­trict as its next state sen­a­tor; if she wins, Democ­rats will con­trol the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate begin­ning at the end of Novem­ber, end­ing five years of Repub­li­can con­trol of the cham­ber.)

“It is unac­cept­able that we have one hun­dred gun deaths every day in this coun­try,” said Dhin­gra in a news release issued by the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paign.

“I am tired of hear­ing about mass shoot­ings and school shoot­ings on the news. There are rea­son­able and real­is­tic steps we can take to make it hard­er for peo­ple to com­mit sui­cide with a gun, or per­pe­trate domes­tic vio­lence, or go on one of the ter­ri­fy­ing mass shoot­ings that have become all too com­mon. I am com­mit­ted to tak­ing imme­di­ate action by using my expe­ri­ence as a pros­e­cu­tor and advo­cate for men­tal health pol­i­cy in the Sen­ate to help keep our fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties safer.”

Specif­i­cal­ly, Dhin­gra wants to:

Ban bump stocks

Dhin­gra will work with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and prime spon­sor leg­is­la­tion ban­ning bump stocks and oth­er devices that turn legal semi-auto­mat­ic firearms into effec­tive­ly ful­ly-auto­mat­ic machine guns. It has already been report­ed that the Las Vegas shoot­er had at least twelve guns mod­i­fied with bump stocks so they could fire hun­dreds of rounds per minute. This method cir­cum­vents laws already on the books intend­ed to pre­vent civil­ians from pos­sess­ing ful­ly auto­mat­ic weapons.

Close loop­holes for domes­tic vio­lence offend­ers

Cur­rent­ly in Wash­ing­ton state, those con­vict­ed of domes­tic vio­lence offens­es lose access to guns with one excep­tion: those con­vict­ed of domes­tic vio­lence (DV) harass­ment. As a law enforce­ment offi­cial, Dhin­gra has seen domes­tic vio­lence offend­ers take advan­tage of this loop­hole to keep their guns and put the vic­tims of their harass­ment at seri­ous risk. More than half of all women mur­dered with guns in the US are killed by inti­mate part­ners or fam­i­ly. When a gun is present in a domes­tic vio­lence sit­u­a­tion, it increas­es the risk of homi­cide for women by 500 per­cent. Dhin­gra will pro­pose leg­is­la­tion to close this loop­hole so all domes­tic vio­lence per­pe­tra­tors are equal­ly held account­able.

Bar indi­vid­u­als who have a his­to­ry of vio­lence and are found to be incom­pe­tent from hav­ing access to guns

When an indi­vid­ual is charged with a seri­ous or non-seri­ous mis­de­meanor offense and is found to be not com­pe­tent by a court of law to pro­ceed to tri­al, the case is dis­missed. Indi­vid­u­als who are charged with seri­ous mis­de­meanor offens­es who can­not go to West­ern State Hos­pi­tal for restora­tion ser­vices still keep their right to pos­sess a firearm, and Dhin­gra will close this loop­hole. In her time as a pros­e­cu­tor run­ning King County’s Region­al Men­tal Health Court, Dhin­gra has seen indi­vid­u­als with con­cern­ing his­to­ry of vio­lence go through the sys­tem repeat­ed­ly, uti­liz­ing loop­holes to stay in our com­mu­ni­ties all the while wait­ing for some­thing more seri­ous to hap­pen. We have to ensure that indi­vid­u­als who are charged with crimes, have been found to be not com­pe­tent due to men­tal dis­ease or defect and have a his­to­ry of vio­lence can­not access their guns.

After Dhin­gra and her team announced that she is ready to lead in com­bat­ing gun vio­lence as the 45th Dis­tric­t’s next state sen­a­tor, her Repub­li­can oppo­nent Jiny­oung Lee Englund made a state­ment of her own, in anoth­er “me too” moment.

“I sup­port enhanced back­ground checks,” Englund said. “I believe they are nec­es­sary to ensure crim­i­nals and those with men­tal ill­ness­es are not allowed to pos­sess a firearm and roam freely in our com­mu­ni­ties. I am com­mit­ted to find­ing real solu­tions to the prob­lem, and it begins with enhanced back­ground checks.”

Englund also made this dec­la­ra­tion in her state­ment: “I believe every day cit­i­zens should not be able to turn a gun into a ful­ly auto­mat­ic weapon.”

(We’re not sure what is meant by “every day cit­i­zens”, but guess­ing that means any­one who’s not a ser­vice­mem­ber or law enforce­ment offi­cer.)

Read the whole thing, though, and notice that while Englund pays plen­ty of lip ser­vice to “solu­tions”, there’s no com­mit­ment to intro­duce or shep­herd through the Sen­ate any spe­cif­ic ideas to com­bat our gun vio­lence pan­dem­ic. Nowhere does Englund pledge to intro­duce a bill to enhance back­ground checks, for exam­ple.

And that’s because, regard­less of whether Englund’s stat­ed beliefs are sin­cere, she and the oper­a­tives run­ning her cam­paign know full well that if she wins, it means more leg­isla­tive inac­tion on pri­or­i­ties like gun respon­si­bil­i­ty — because she is the twen­ty-fifth vote the Repub­li­cans need to pre­serve the sta­tus quo in Olympia.

Top Sen­ate Repub­li­cans like Mark Schoesler and Mike Pad­den — whose financiers are bankrolling Englund’s cam­paign — are firm­ly in the pock­et of the gun lob­by, includ­ing the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA). They’ve giv­en no indi­ca­tion what­so­ev­er they are open to buck­ing the NRA and work­ing with Democ­rats to advance nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect Wash­ing­to­ni­ans from gun vio­lence.

As long as Schoesler is major­i­ty leader and Pad­den con­trols the Sen­ate Law and Jus­tice Com­mit­tee, the Sen­ate will remain a grave­yard of progress on this and many oth­er press­ing issues, as Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen explained to the Seat­tle Times:

“Nothing’s going to hap­pen if we’re not in con­trol,” said Ped­er­sen, the rank­ing Demo­c­rat on the Sen­ate Law and Jus­tice Com­mit­tee. [Ped­er­sen is Pad­den’s coun­ter­part.] “And if we do take con­trol, then I think there are some things we can def­i­nite­ly do.”

As for an out­right ban on assault weapons, “I think that’s a non­starter for now,” he said.

While he acknowl­edged that no law would be cer­tain to stop gun vio­lence, Ped­er­sen said pass­ing leg­is­la­tion over time would tight­en the laws enough to cut down on gun deaths.

Among Englund’s finan­cial back­ers are the Gun Own­ers Action League of Wash­ing­ton, which is on the record as opposed to bills requir­ing safe stor­age of guns and allow­ing the destruc­tion of for­feit­ed firearms.

The group has giv­en $1,000 to Englund’s cam­paign.

Englund told The Seat­tle Times she does­n’t agree with all of the group’s posi­tions. But that does­n’t mat­ter. The gun lob­by knows that if Englund wins, Schoesler and Pad­den stay in charge, and will retain the pow­er to kill off any gun safe­ty bills they don’t like. The gun lob­by can over­look Englund’s diver­gence from the par­ty line. They need her to enable their accom­plices in the Sen­ate to stay in pow­er.

What ulti­mate­ly mat­ters to them is the major­i­ty, not what Englund tells East­side vot­ers in an effort to attract sup­port for her can­di­da­cy.

It is impor­tant that every vot­er in the 45th under­stands this dynam­ic.

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