EDITORIAL | Gun debate gets crucial

Though common sense is the first casualty in the gun-control debate, a pair of common-sense bills appearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee in Olympia represent a glimmer of hope.

House Bill 1588 would require background checks for all firearms sales in the state. Such a law would have prevented Mayor Mike McGinn’s Jan. 26 gun-buy-back debacle and its open-air firearms bazaar.

Currently, background checks are required only of licensed firearms dealers. Third-party sales are unregulated.

House Bill 1676 addresses safe storage: Gaining access to a loaded gun by anyone 16 or younger without adult supervision would constitute reckless endangerment — which is exactly what it is.

The dysfunctionality and irrationality of the gun-control debate and the number of gun deaths in this country — more than 30,000 each year, or 20 times higher than 10 other “developed” countries — represent a plague. More firearms deaths have happened in King County in recent years — at least 125 a year — than deaths from auto crashes. 

Defending one’s home against an intruder is a legitimate reason to keep a firearm, but let’s keep it real: Public Health — Seattle & King County reports firearm deaths in King County homes are 12 times more likely to involve friends or acquaintances of the shooter rather than strangers. 

The gun lobby argues the plague of gun violence is not a public-health issue and the government should butt out. We beg to differ.

In King County, based on data from 2007 to 2011, the tab for medical expenses and lost productivity came to $177 million from firearm deaths and injuries, according to Public Health.

In Seattle, handguns are used in 67 percent of homicides, 41 percent of robberies and 20 percent of aggravated assaults, Public Health says, citing a recent study. In 2010, the study showed, violent crime cost Seattle $89 million, or $144 per resident.

This is, indeed, a public-health issue and a public-policy-economic issue.

As with other areas where lives have been saved — air bags, tobacco restrictions and child-safety seats — this is the time for government to step in and do something.

There is no response to those who think a nation with a free flow of unregulated guns is the answer to an unruly government or para-national organizations wanting to overtake our sovereignty. We can only repeat: Seattle citizens have a stake in the outcome in Olympia. This is power politics at is most basic and ugliest.

Our legislators in Olympia need our support. We urge you to contact Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reps. Reuven Carlyle and Gael Tarleton to let them know how you feel. They’re in the trenches on this one, and it’s not easy.

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