“The gun violence problem is in Seattle. The solution is in Olympia,” declares Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington Ceasefire. “We have a lot of angry people who can easily get guns.”
Seattle residents are trying to make sense of gun violence that has claimed five lives, in different neighborhoods, since last Thursday. Several others have been wounded in shootings.
Police have said guns, not gangs, are responsible for the crimes. Fascitelli blames Washington gun laws which he says are “terrible, the worst in the country.”
People who buy guns through licensed dealers in Washington have to go through background checks and a five-day waiting period. The dealer is also required to keep complete records on gun sales. He says that doesn’t happen at most gun shows every weekend in this state and around the country.
“People can buy an unlimited number of guns. They’re not traceable, and it creates a secondary market for illegal gun sales,” Fascitelli says.
Brady Foundation, a national group trying to prevent gun violence, estimates over forty percent of gun acquisitions occur in the secondary market.
Washington has weak gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market, allow the sale of guns without background checks and allow the sale of military-style assault weapons, according to the Brady Campaign.
They call that the “gun show loophole” which has been closed by legislation in Oregon and California, but not here.
“There isn’t a kid in high school who couldn’t get a gun in five minutes if he really wanted one,” says Fascitelli.
“I have a hard time believing that,” says Dave Workman, senior editor for TheGunMag.com. “It’s a myth that it’s easy to get a gun in Washington.”
Workman also points out, there is no evidence that weapons purchased from gun shows were involved in any of the recent Seattle crimes.
Even so, Fascitelli recommends these solutions: Allow cities to create their own gun legislation which might be tougher than state laws; Make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to own a handgun, with a first offense resulting in a mandatory 24 hours in jail; Close the “gun show loophole” that creates a secondary market for weapons; Launch a public health campaign informing people that guns don’t make residents safer.
Workman, who is also on the board of directors of the Washington Arms Collectors, thinks it would be “insane” for Seattle or any city to set their own gun laws.
“You can’t have Seattle setting itself with gun laws that don’t apply anywhere else,” he says.
The Second Amendment Foundation said existing laws are enough to encourage gun safety. “Responsible people will maintain gun safety whether there is a law or not. Irresponsible people will ignore the law,” says Workman.
Fascitelli is not satisfied with that reasoning, and maintains our state needs gun laws that are more strict.
“We don’t have tougher laws because we are spineless in Washington state and we don’t have leadership,” he says.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says he’s “made it clear” to the police department that it’s their “highest priority to identify the strategies that we need to employ to try to bring an end to this wave of gun violence that the city is seeing.”
He also says current laws make it “too easy” for people to acquire guns.
By LINDA THOMAS
AP file photo