A Seattle Without Gun Violence is Possible
2020 was the worst year for gun violence in decades. Nearly 20,000 people lost their lives and another nearly 40,000 were injured because of guns. In between headlines of devastating mass shootings, our communities have been gripped by a surge in domestic violence, suicide, and street shootings. Gun violence is a pandemic that has been ravaging our city long before COVID–19, and like many crises it has only been made worse by the economic collapse, social isolation, and instability of the last year. When we say, gun violence is a public health crisis, it is more than just a slogan. It means that we must bring the same relentless focus on data, public education, and execution that it takes to overcome any other pandemic. Just like with COVID–19, there are tools and strategies that must be expanded for all of us to do our part to reduce gun violence.
Ultimately, no matter who you are or where you live– you deserve to feel safe. No one should live in fear that at any moment a person with a gun might shoot you. In Seattle, we have witnessed weekly and sometimes daily shootings: at our malls like the recent Southcenter shooting, in our own homes in the case of a 16 year old killed in Rainier Beach last week, or on our streets two weeks ago in the Central District on 23rd and Jackson.
As Mayor, I would commit to a serious and comprehensive vision for zero shootings in our community. This goal is achievable because we know that gun violence IS preventable. We know what works, we just need the conviction to do it.
There is incredible work happening right now in our city to prevent gun violence. Whether it is the gains we’ve made in implementing Extreme Risk Protection Orders, the efforts of the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit to get guns off our streets, or the work of innovative violence prevention organizations like Community Passageways, there is cause for hope and renewed commitment to end gun violence.
However, the urgency of this crisis requires a #FreshStart on Gun Violence Prevention. We know that our efforts have not yet been enough to eradicate this epidemic. To finally end gun violence, we must build the social, cultural, and economic supports that create healthy and thriving communities for everyone in our city while tearing down systems of oppression, white supremacy, and hate.
If we invest in helping communities thrive, treat gun violence as a public health crisis, and bring a renewed and relentless focus on removing dangerous access to firearms– we can and will live in a city with zero shootings.
Sections of Jessyn’s #FreshStart on Gun Violence Prevention Plan:
Helping Communities Thrive
We know that true public safety is something we can achieve only with the cultural, social, and economic supports that help communities thrive. Ensuring everyone in our community has stable housing, access to healthcare, connection to community, and a good paying job, will create true safety for our city. Community organizations on the ground are saving lives every day, we need leaders that will listen and support their work.
The epidemic of gun violence in our communities is inseparable from interlocking systems of oppression, white supremacy and misogyny. Envisioning a world with zero gun violence means we have done the hard work of fundamentally rearranging power and wealth in our city, so that everyone can not just survive but thrive. Whether it is domestic violence, suicide, mass shootings, or everyday firearm fatalities, truly preventing gun violence requires investing in healthy and thriving communities.
- Investing in Community Violence Prevention: Violence prevention organizations are working every day to heal the wounds made by centuries of systemic oppression. Communities on the front lines have simultaneously borne the brunt of the gun violence epidemic, and been left on their own to solve it. Whether it is through youth diversion, re–entry, or other violence interventions, these organizations have been working for decades to keep our community safe. Our city must recognize them as some of the most effective tools to interrupt cycles of violence. These groups need the resources necessary to meet the scale of the crisis. As mayor, I will work with community partners to invest in the diverse network of violence prevention strategies that will create true safety in our community.
- Gun Violence is Intersectional: Investments in healthcare, housing, education, higher wages, and transportation are all factors that contribute to gun violence prevention. By investing in these essential community supports, we are investing in our community’s safety and security. Tearing down structures of systemic oppression, eradicating the white–Black household wealth gap, ending white supremacy, and disarming hate in particular against LGBTQ, Asian American and Jewish communities are all actions that will help prevent gun violence. Police violence IS gun violence too. All of these aspects of violence in our communities require different and in–depth policy solutions that are components of the other plans in this campaign, but the Office of the Mayor under my tenure will bring this intersectional approach to reducing gun violence in our community.
- Ensuring Our Budgets Reflect Our Values: If we truly believe that no one in our community should go about their day to day lives fearing harm, then it is imperative that we ensure our budgets reflect our values. We must invest in what works to keep us safe, like community violence prevention, and we must divest ourselves from what doesn’t work. Specifically, we know that public safety must mean so much more than a traditional policing and enforcement response, it must include all the social, cultural, and economic supports that help people thrive. This approach will not only reduce harm and deep racial inequities in our city, but it is just common–sense to get the most out of the public safety systems we are paying for.
- Trauma–Centered Approach: The work of preventing gun violence requires acknowledging the deep trauma so many people in our community are carrying. As Mayor I will ensure Seattle invests in expanding access to mental health professionals, music & art programs, and sports in our schools. These resources contribute to the development of thriving communities and have positive life changing effects on children. Our schools must be safe spaces for children to engage in Social Emotional Learning, healthy conflict resolution, and feel supported for who they are. We must promote programs that already exist within the community and that allow students to show up authentically. I will also work to ensure that our teachers, coaches, counselors and any professional interfacing with children has received trauma-sensitive training so that these resources will be administered equitably.
Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis
Gun violence is an epidemic. Every single day, hundreds of lives are lost to guns. It is an epidemic that has been raging across our communities for far longer than COVID–19. And yet, our leaders haven’t treated it like the public health crisis that it is. Seattle should settle for nothing less than zero gun deaths and we need a mayor with the knowledge and experience to relentlessly pursue that goal until it is reality.
The issue of gun violence has a long history in our culture, the complexities of which make it that much more critical that we take a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this crisis. As Mayor, I will use public health research and an evidence based approach, to address and reverse this threat to our communities health.
- Establishing the Seattle Office of Violence Prevention: The city should do its part by establishing a city–wide office to invest in year round public education, research gun violence as a public health crisis, act as a grant making authority to scale up effective community violence prevention programs, and oversee the implementation of life saving measures across city, state, and regional boundaries. We must build on the work of King County Public Health and Harbourview, to study the causes of gun violence and close crucial gaps in data. In addition, public education is one of our most important tools to prevent violence. We must bring the same relentless focus on data, iterative policy development, and measurable goals and outcomes to combat the epidemic of gun violence.
- Ensuring Safe Storage of Firearms: Seattle must use its partnership with our public schools to educate parents and kids about firearm risks through the Lock It Up and Lifewire Domestic Violence programs. By funding public education and firearm storage giveaways, strengthening and enforcing existing laws, requiring more strict health information about safe storage at the point of sale, and enhancing education for gun owners so they are responsibly storing firearms, we can cut down on unintentional shootings, suicides, and gun violence of all kinds. In Washington, guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens. Nationally, over 50% of gun owners aren’t storing their firearms safely, leading to nearly 4.6 million children living in homes with unsecured firearms and over 380,000 stolen firearms every year. These stolen firearms are disproportionately used in mass shootings. In King County, 82% of guns used in youth suicide were obtained from a neighbor or family member. Additionally, unintentional shootings, and school shootings perpetrated by minors disproportionately involved improperly stored firearms as well.
- Partnerships and Research: We have some of the best in the nation laws ensuring safe storage, providing for extreme risk protection orders, and regulating firearms– but these laws are only as good as their implementation. Our city needs expertise from organizations on the ground, funding, and partnership at local, regional, and state level to ensure these tools are effectively used and that the public understands how to utilize them. We must fund research into the efficacy of existing programs and laws, address the scarcity of data, and encourage more publications and researchers dedicated to gun violence locally. Gun owners should be required to receive comprehensive information on the effects of firearms in our schools, and receive ample training to ensure they are responsible, and not contributing to violence in our community.
- Safe Schools and Safe Communities We know that when there are fewer firearms on our streets, violence of all kinds goes down. Removing dangerous access to firearms is critical to creating true public safety for our city. At the same time, we must end the stigmatization of mental illness. People with mental illness and disabilities are more often the victims rather than perpetrators of gun violence. We know that what is really correlated with gun violence is dangerous access to firearms.
Safe Schools and Safe Communities
We know that when there are fewer firearms on our streets, violence of all kinds goes down. Removing dangerous access to firearms is critical to creating true public safety for our city. At the same time, we must end the stigmatization of mental illness. People with mental illness and disabilities are more often the victims rather than perpetrators of gun violence. We know that what is really correlated with gun violence is dangerous access to firearms.
- Common–sense Firearm Regulations: Support local and state efforts to enact common sense firearm regulations including: banning assault weapons, requiring permits to purchase firearms, restrictions on magazine capacity, and efforts to centralize background checks to a single point of sale. All of these policy measures would help cities save lives and reduce gun violence. I will use the Office of the Mayor to advocate at the state, regional and local level for common–sense firearm regulations that get guns off our streets, particularly weapons of war.
- City and Regional Implementation: It is long past time for our city to fully fund the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit (RDVFEU). These programs remove dangerous access to firearms before a crisis response is necessary. Simply put, they save lives. Just last year, the RDVFEU lost funding and unit members as they were transitioned to patrol. As Mayor, I will be an advocate for scaling up and preserving effective programs, not cutting them. In addition, we must bring renewed urgency to measuring and addressing the disproportionate impacts that these enforcement mechanisms have on communities of color, recognizing the deep history of inequity in how firearm restrictions have been implemented.
- Limiting Dangerous Access to Firearms: Building on our nation–leading Domestic Violence and Extreme Risk Protection Orders, we must expand legislation prioritizing removing access to firearms from individuals with known risk factors for gun violence– including a history of domestic violence, hate speech, animal abuse, and repeated substance abuse, especially with alcohol and driving under the influence (which has been shown to correlate with a 4- to 4.5-fold increased risk of a subsequent violent or firearm-related arrest). Simultaneously, we must de–stigmatize mental health supports and end the culture of shame that prevents wide–spread usage of tools to help families and communities from supporting their loved ones by removing access to firearms.
- Disarming Hate: This last year we have witnessed a surge in violent hate, in particular to LGBTQ, BIPOC, Jewish, and Asian American communities. In addition, the rise of white supremacist and other hateful millitia groups is a disturbing trend in our state and city. As Mayor, I would support city funding to anti–hate programs in our schools, and build on recent legislation banning open–carrying of firearms at public demonstrations by expanding these restrictions to our parks, city facilities, and other public spaces. I will also work to strengthen our hate crime statutes to better protect victims and disarm hate.
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