Editorial: Students’ lesson in civics offers advice for all

‘Write, call, email,” Rep. Suzan DelBene tells Lake Stevens High students regarding gun legislation.

By The Herald Editorial Board

A visit by a sitting member of Congress or the Legislature is a staple of many government and current events classes in high schools, a chance to get a first-hand perspective on the workings of government and the day’s issues.

Each visit is different, said U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., to a combined class of about 50 of Darrick Hayman’s advanced placement government classes at Lake Stevens High School, “but this year is different.”

Seated press-conference style in the high school’s library, the students asked the three-term 1st District representative a range of questions on health care, mental health, opioids, funding replacement of the U.S. 2 trestle and the fate of Dreamers, who include fellow students who came to America with their undocumented parents and are now seeking a path toward citizenship.

But the most frequent topic Thursday morning was guns and gun violence, particularly in schools.

Like their counterparts at Parkland, Florida’s Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, following last month’s massacre of 17 students, faculty and staff, the Lake Stevens students recognize they now have the attention of their communities, the media and government officials. But they also have seen that attention — and the motivation for action — can easily evaporate.

“What can we do to keep pushing for change?” one student asked DelBene, especially when many of them aren’t yet old enough to vote.

“Letters, calls and emails,” the congresswoman advised.

(If that seems a rote response, ask Gov. Jay Inslee if the barrage of calls and emails to his office influenced his decision Thursday night to veto an unpopular bill from state lawmakers that would have largely excused them from the state’s Public Records Act. Then ask some of the lawmakers who, following the public outcry, joined in seeking the governor’s veto of a bill they had just approved.)

DelBene admitted to students that moving legislation on gun safety has been difficult. With about 70 such pieces of legislation, there’s no shortage of ideas regarding gun safety and some with bipartisan support, but Republican leadership in the House and Senate have blocked legislation from floor votes.

That refusal to allow a vote, DelBene said, has prompted some push-back from members in the House — Democrat and Republican alike — who want action on specific legislation that seeks to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent those prohibited from buying firearms from obtaining them.

To get the “Fix NICS” bill past House leadership and on to the floor for a vote, DelBene explained some members are using a process called a “discharge petition.” If 218 members, basically half the House plus one, sign the petition, it will be brought to the floor for a vote. As of Feb. 27, 169 members, including DelBene and 2nd District Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., had signed on to the petition.

The same procedure could also be used, DelBene said, to force a floor vote on legislation to preserve the protections for Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which also has bipartisan support.

But action on gun safety legislation and DACA, she said, does depend on constituents continuing to push members of Congress and on continuing the discussion among each other.

“Keep bringing people together to talk, and talk to the people who disagree with you,” she said. “Have a dialogue, learn from each other and build those bridges.”

Holly Smith, a Lake Stevens senior, was one of those asking how to move the issues of gun and school safety from discussion to action.

Like other students in high schools across the nation, Lake Stevens students are planning a one-day walkout to protest the lack of action, Smith said.

“We have to keep talking about the things we believe in,” she said. “It’s up to us to push it forward.”

Smith, by the way, turned 18 a few days ago. She planned to register to vote that afternoon.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Jan. 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 12, 2018, file photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. Five years after Washington launched its pioneering legal marijuana market, officials are proposing their most ambitious overhaul yet of the way the industry is regulated, with plans for boosting minority ownership of pot businesses, spreading out oversight among a range of state agencies, and letting the smallest cannabis producers increase the size of the operations in an effort to help them become more competitive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Editorial: Adults should be allowed to grow cannabis at home

A bill has returned to allow residents, as they are in other states, to grow their own marijuana.

Schwab: White, racist and anti-Semitic; that is who they are

And punishing the man who incited the Capitol mob is a prerequisite to healing the nation.

Gift of a cookie from neighbor was a bright spot

I would like to share a bright spot in our dreary days.… Continue reading

Pleased to be long-time Herald subscribers

We so appreciate our local paper.We even get disappointed when the Times… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, Jan. 15

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2020, file photo, an electronic sign warns travellers to maintain social distance in the terminal of Denver International Airport in Denver.  Two airline passengers who got into disturbances after allegedly not wearing face masks now face potential fines. The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday, Dec. 18,  that it is seeking civil penalties of $15,000 and $7,500 over two separate incidents. Both happened in August.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Editorial: ‘This is your captain speaking: Settle down!’

Unruly and unmasked passengers are a threat to flight safety and risk spreading the pandemic.

Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., cleans up debris and personal belongings strewn across the floor of the Rotunda in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, after protesters stormed the Capitol in Washington, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Editorial: Regardless of outcome, president must be impeached

If only to allow history to record that members of Congress stood up to Trump’s assault on democracy.

Soldiers working in a logistics area of Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state stand Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, near cooler bags that will be used to transport vials of the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 to other locations in the hospital when shots are given to workers on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Editorial: Slow roll on covid vaccination can’t be tolerated

With only a fraction of available doses administered, vaccination rates must quickly ramp up.

Most Read