by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
We all know the names of the towns or the schools where mass shootings have occurred. You can't say 'Columbine' or 'Sandy Hook' without eliciting a response that, more often than not, is one of anger or sadness. From Virginia Tech to a movie theater in Colorado, people have needlessly lost their lives when everything went wrong during the course of a day that started out just like any other day.
Each time we hear about kids shot to death in classrooms the nation mourns. Well, Sandy Hook was the one that seemed too much to take - it was too horrible, too gruesome, and made us all feel too vulnerable for us to just mourn in its response. Ready or not, the debate over gun control and gun laws in the U.S. has begun and there is no turning back.
City of Seattle officials have also decided that enough is enough.
On Tuesday, January 15, Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz, Dr. David Fleming of Public Health - Seattle & King County, Renee Hopkins of the Seattle Police Foundation, and the Rev. Aaron Williams of Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church announced a new Gun Safety Initiative, including a gun buyback program.
Former Seattle mayors Greg Nickels, Norm Rice, Charles Royer, and Wes Uhlman are serving as co-chairs of the program.
Within a few hours, donations surpassed the $100,000 goal.
The countywide gun buyback initiative will provide a monetary incentive to individuals who turn in firearms, while engaging our communities toward a common goal of reducing gun violence. The first gun buyback will be held January 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the parking lot underneath Interstate 5 between Cherry and James streets in downtown Seattle.
'This gun buyback program can help us protect public health and safety and reduce gun violence in our communities,' said McGinn. 'We will continue working with the police department and other organizations and agencies on a broad range of solutions to the epidemic of gun violence. I want to thank Amazon, PEMCO, the 5 Point Café, Big Mario's Pizza, SEOmoz, and other sponsors who are making this program possible. '
'If we can prevent just one child, one innocent bystander, from being the victim of a random accident, or the target of an unstable person, it will be well worth our time and effort,' said Constantine.
'This is an opportunity for people to get unwanted guns out of their homes. We hope that people will take advantage of this opportunity to safely dispose of those unwanted, unused, and forgotten guns that we know are lying around. If this prevents just one tragedy, it is worth the effort,' said Metz.
'The Sheriff's Office remains committed to providing a safe place for citizens to turn in guns they no longer want. It is a much better choice to remove an unwanted gun from your home than to leave it where it can be stolen and used in a crime,' said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
'The Seattle Police Foundation is proud to partner with the Seattle Police Department and many other community partners to improve the safety of our community by removing unwanted guns, helping ensure wanted guns are safely secured, and providing vital gun safety educational information to our community,' said Renee Hopkins, executive director of the Seattle Police Foundation.
In partnership with the Seattle Police Department, other law enforcement agencies in King County, and community and faith-based organizations, the gun buyback effort will set up locations throughout Seattle and King County where individuals can turn in firearms anonymously, with no questions asked.
Modeled on successful gun buyback programs across the country, the Seattle/King County gun buyback program will be an anonymous process in which individuals can turn in their unwanted weapons. Law enforcement officials will not be taking pictures of participants, nor will they be logging license plate numbers or running ballistic tests on the guns that are turned in. In exchange for dropping off a weapon, individuals will receive a gift card valued at up to $100 for handguns, shotguns, and rifles, and up to $200 for assault weapons (as classified by Washington statute).
The Seattle Police Department will also be distributing trigger locks for those who wish to secure their firearms safely. These will be available at each of the five precincts during normal business hours.
The Seattle Police Department last held a gun buyback program in 1992.
SEATTLE AND D.C. IN SYNC ON GUN CONTROL
At the White House January 16, Mayor McGinn thanked President Obama for his leadership and bold action to strengthen our country's gun laws.
'This is our first task as a society - keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged,' Obama said. 'We can't put this off any longer.'
The proposal is broken down into four key subsections: law enforcement, the availability of dangerous firearms and ammunition, school safety, and mental health.
In an effort to touch on all four of those elements, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun-trafficking statute, among other policies.
The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.
Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Those actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders, and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.
'I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,' said the president, speaking about his full set of recommendations. 'If there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.'
Byron Todd Jones, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, will take over the post permanently.
Mayor McGinn will continue to work on his efforts to support public safety and health in Seattle and will look for new opportunities to enact more sensible gun control regulations, said officials.
'Thank you, Mr. President, for making this a priority,' said McGinn.
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