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Still no Mayor McGinn; Challenger Burgess questions gun buybacks

Seattle Police display some of the guns turned in at last Saturday's gun buyback. (SPD image)

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn continues refusing to appear on the Ron and Don Show to discuss the city’s controversial gun buyback program, and rebut criticisms they’re ineffective and little more than a photo op. But Seattle City Councilman and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess questioned their effectiveness Friday in an interview with Ron and Don.

Burgess avoided taking any direct shots at McGinn and said while he has no problem with with gun buybacks as long as they don’t cost any taxpayer money, he’s worried they become a distraction from real issues.

“We had a buyback program back in the 90’s,” Burgess said. “The academic research that was done on that showed that it did not result in the reduction of gun violence in fact our homicide rate by guns actually went up in the six months following the buyback program.”

Don questioned the leadership of both McGinn and police chief John Diaz, wondering why Diaz has been absent from a number of major events including last year’s Cafe Racer massacre, the gun buyback and last Sunday’s shooting at a Central District nightclub, while Assistant Chief Nick Metz or others spoke on behalf of the department instead.

Burgess was diplomatic in his response, but made it clear he doesn’t plan to keep the chief around if he’s elected, reiterating a previous statement that the city would get a new chief under his watch.

“I think Chief Diaz is eligible for retirement, I would not fire him,” Burgess said. “I think there is a need however for new leadership in the police department.”

Burgess refused to comment on criticisms the buybacks are little more than “political theater” as Ron characterized it.

Instead, he pushed the measures he thinks would do the most good, such as instituting a data collection system of gun injuries and deaths to help develop prevention programs, better training, and new safety initiatives.

Burgess also emphasized that while there’s plenty of talk about incidents like Cafe Racer and the Sandy Hook shootings, they’re the exception rather than the norm. He said the far bigger problem is accidental shootings, suicides and attempted suicides, and the focus should be on keeping guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them.

“We have allowed the gun debate to take our eyes off what we should be focused on,” Burgess said. “The issue now is how do we make sure that people possess weapons safely and that people who should not possess weapons are not given access to them.”

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