NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Saturday, June 11th, 2022

Patty Murray urges Republicans to stop blocking gun safety bills in the U.S. Senate

Democ­rats proved again this past week that they have the votes to pass gun safe­ty laws in the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, vot­ing most­ly along par­ty lines to adopt the Pro­tect­ing Our Chil­dren Act and the Fed­er­al Extreme Risk Pro­tec­tion Act — bills that Pres­i­dent Joe Biden is eager to sign.

In the Sen­ate, how­ev­er, Repub­li­cans wield a veto over all pol­i­cy bills thanks to the col­lec­tion of pro­ce­dures known as the fil­i­buster, which enables them to block pret­ty much all leg­is­la­tion they don’t like from even being considered.

Reform­ing the fil­i­buster would require the entire Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus to be unit­ed in sup­port of a rules change, but two mem­bers — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sine­ma — are adamant­ly opposed to such a move, leav­ing Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers like Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Pat­ty Mur­ray with lit­tle recourse oth­er than to call on Repub­li­cans to work with Democ­rats to pro­tect Americans.

That’s exact­ly what Sen­a­tor Mur­ray did yes­ter­day at an appear­ance with advo­cates and local elect­ed lead­ers host­ed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

Senator Murray at a press conference hosted by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility

Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray speaks at a press con­fer­ence host­ed by the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty in Seat­tle. Alliance CEO Renee Hop­kins, Lin­coln High sopho­more Chetan Soni, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Berry, and the Seat­tle Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion’s Joaquín Rodríguez also spoke. (Pho­to: Alexa Moormeier/NPI)

Mur­ray’s event, which pre­ced­ed NPI’s press con­fer­ence in Kent with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, was opened by Renee Hop­kins, the CEO of the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty. She cit­ed some of the recent mass shoot­ings that have drawn nation­al media atten­tion, includ­ing the tragedies in Uvalde, Buf­fa­lo, Lagu­na Woods, and Tul­sa. She also point­ed out that many of the chil­dren killed in Uvalde were born in the same year as the atroc­i­ty at Sandy Hook in Newtown.

Although mass shoot­ings draw the most media inter­est, Hop­kins not­ed that “the vast major­i­ty of gun vio­lence hap­pens in our homes and our neigh­bor­hoods every sin­gle day with­out mak­ing head­lines.” An aver­age of one hun­dred and twen­ty peo­ple are killed with guns in this coun­try every day. Recent leg­is­la­tion adopt­ed in Wash­ing­ton State will help pre­vent gun vio­lence here, but much more needs to be done, Hop­kins explained, espe­cial­ly at the fed­er­al lev­el, where bills to do things that Wash­ing­ton State has already done are being held up by Republicans.

(At the state lev­el, the next step seems to be an assault weapons ban, which NPI’s research is strong­ly sup­port­ed by a major­i­ty of like­ly 2022 vot­ers.)

Joaquín Rodríguez, Direc­tor of the Seat­tle Edu­ca­tion Association’s Cen­ter for Racial Equi­ty, dis­cussed the harm that gun vio­lence has inflict­ed on his stu­dents, empha­siz­ing the anx­i­ety caused by lock­downs and cred­i­ble threats of violence.

Stu­dents need and deserve to learn in a healthy, safe, and pos­i­tive envi­ron­ment in order to thrive, he told reporters.

He denounced elect­ed offi­cials who take mon­ey from the gun lob­by, observ­ing that these are often the same peo­ple who deny pro­vid­ing pre­dom­i­nant­ly schools in Black and brown com­mu­ni­ties the resources they need. Final­ly, he chal­lenged law­mak­ers to rec­og­nize that stu­dents want to be free from intru­sive and aggres­sive polic­ing along with end­ing gun violence.

Next to speak was There­sa Hard­ing, who joined Rodríguez in empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of rec­og­niz­ing stu­dent activism in the strug­gle to end gun vio­lence. Elect­ed offi­cials and old­er vot­ers need to be as ded­i­cat­ed to this cause as stu­dents are, Hard­ing said. She cit­ed New Zealand, which took action direct­ly after a hor­rif­ic mass shoot­ing to ban semi-auto­mat­ic weapons, as an exam­ple of a juris­dic­tion where lead­ers lis­ten, call­ing on Con­gress to take sim­i­lar steps.

Lin­coln High sopho­more Chetan Soni explained what it is like to be con­sis­tent­ly remind­ed of the threat of gun vio­lence through lock­down drills and active lock­downs. Soni argued that teach­ers should not be expect­ed to inform their stu­dents that they are will­ing to die for them in the event of a shoot­ing, which is some­thing that many of his teach­ers have shared.

Chetan urged Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress to cut all ties with the gun lob­by and pur­sue leg­is­la­tion pro­mot­ing gun safety.

“Every sin­gle hour and every sin­gle day: That is how often stu­dents and staff think about gun vio­lence when they enter their class­rooms,” Soni said.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Berry, who suc­ceed­ed NPI’s Gael Tar­leton in the Leg­is­la­ture as one of two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the 36th Dis­trict, shared her expe­ri­ence with gun vio­lence at a con­stituent event for for­mer Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gab­by Gif­fords, her boss at the time. After fir­ing thir­ty-one times, shoot­ing eigh­teen peo­ple, and killing five, the gun­man was tak­en down while attempt­ing to reload.

The gun­man’s use of a semi-auto­mat­ic firearm and high capac­i­ty mag­a­zine designed for ruth­less, effi­cient killing result­ed in a high death toll.

Recent­ly passed gun safe­ty laws, includ­ing a ban on “ghost guns” and invest­ment in com­mu­ni­ty inter­ven­tion pro­grams, have moved Wash­ing­ton for­ward, Berry said. Gun safe­ty laws have been shown to low­er rates of gun vio­lence, but only Demo­c­ra­t­ic-led states have been pass­ing them. Repub­li­can-con­trolled states have inde­fen­si­bly made it eas­i­er for peo­ple to own and pos­sess mil­i­tary-style guns.

Action is need­ed at the fed­er­al lev­el to ensure all Amer­i­cans are bet­ter pro­tect­ed from gun vio­lence, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Berry said, adding that gun man­u­fac­tur­ers should no longer enjoy immu­ni­ty from liability.

Sen­a­tor Mur­ray, who was the final speak­er, remind­ed those present that gun vio­lence remains a big threat to pub­lic safe­ty here, ref­er­enc­ing the record num­ber of firearm deaths in 2021 in King Coun­ty as well as cred­i­ble shoot­ing threats made against Wash­ing­ton schools in recent weeks.

Wash­ing­ton State has shown what can be accom­plished even in the face of stri­dent oppo­si­tion from the gun lob­by, but Con­gress has not, because Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have sad­ly blocked any and all progress to date.

Sen­a­tor Mur­ray reit­er­at­ed that her cau­cus is pre­pared to sup­port any pro­pos­als that Repub­li­cans are will­ing to pro­vide suf­fi­cient votes for, so long as they actu­al­ly respond to the prob­lem of gun vio­lence. Even tak­ing small steps would be bet­ter than the almost total lack of action we’ve seen in the wake of pre­vi­ous tragedies.

As Sen­a­tor Mur­ray said, all Amer­i­cans, no mat­ter what state they live in, deserve to be safe and free from gun vio­lence. That’s a future that we at NPI strong­ly believe in. We’ll keep work­ing with the Alliance and lead­ers like Sen­a­tor Mur­ray to secure the pas­sage of laws to make us a freer and safer people.

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