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In Our View / 2013 Legislative session

Leadership on gun violence

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Multiple narratives throw into relief the thorny question of how to address gun violence. One centers on a Seattle police officer, a Republican who, until recently, could boast of a 100 percent approval rating by the National Rifle Association.
This session, Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens committed the venal sin of embracing a sensible approach to gun violence, one that doesn't blunt the Second Amendment. Hope is sponsoring House Bill 1588, requiring background checks for the private sale of firearms. NRA mass mailings notwithstanding, the bill won't mitigate responsible gun ownership.
"I realize that it may not be politically favorable to support this legislation, mostly due to rhetoric, but understand that I do so in good conscience, because God forbid a tragedy such as the Connecticut shootings happen in my district," Hope said. "I want to know that I did my best to make it legally impossible for a dangerous felon to purchase a gun. I am reasonable so I understand that this won't stop every criminal from obtaining a gun. But with this legislation I know, as a lawmaker I have done my best within my abilities and that is my job."
Another narrative flows from an orphan who lived on the streets of Korea and was later adopted by an American serviceman during the war. Sen. Paull Shin took the name of his adopted father, earned his doctorate from the University of Washington and became a distinguished community college professor. A religiously devout and valued lawmaker, Shin is not impetuous. His judgment and leadership on guns, like Rep. Hope's, signal a new political current.
"I'm extremely concerned about the terrible gun violence we've seen in the past few months, and I believe that we have a responsibility as a state Legislature to do what we can to help keep our communities safe," Shin said. "People have spoken and they want us to take action. I understand this is a controversial issue, so it makes sense to start with common-sense solutions that we should all be able to agree are good ideas."
Common sense is the animating idea. And its bipartisan.
State Sen. Nick Harper, an Everett Democrat, holds the political seat once occupied by the redoubtable Augie Mardesich. Harper is leading the charge on the senate side, advocating a series of gun-violence bills.
"The violence prevention measures we are pursuing are common-sense bills which have wide bipartisan support. We agree that mental health is at the root of gun violence, which is why four of these bills address that aspect of the issue," Harper said. "Our goal with all of this legislation is to keep guns out of the hands of people who intend to do harm to themselves or others, not to take any guns away or limit the type of guns responsible Americans have the right to own."
Thread together the leadership of Harper, Hope, Shin, Rep. Mike Sells and others. Universal background checks, mental-health funding and safer storage of firearms will enhance existing law and protect Washington families. It's time.

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