MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Gun violence rising on Washington state highways

May 23, 2023, 3:41 PM | Updated: 6:19 pm

Image: A Washington State Patrol vehicle...

A Washington State Patrol vehicle (Photo: Andrew Kim, Flickr)

(Photo: Andrew Kim, Flickr)

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is warning about the rise in gun violence on state highways.

WSP reports 396 separate incidents of gun fire on highways that state troopers patrol so far this year.

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“That includes everything. That includes road rage, that includes drive-by (shootings) that includes assaults, that includes gang-related situations,” said Chris Loftis, Director of Communications for the Washington State Patrol.

Loftis said gun violence has increased from 459 shootings in 2018 to 1,058 in 2022.

Why? He explained it’s a simple matter of numbers.

“Well, there are more people out there, more people on our roads,” he said. “There are more guns out there and there are more people with guns who are willing to use them recklessly or in anger.”

Loftis said it’s never been more important for you to keep your cool behind the wheel, even if another driver antagonizes you.

“No matter what the situation is, keep your head. Keep going. Get to safety. Don’t engage. Don’t make the problem worse.”

He said if someone does wave a gun or fires at you – or if you witness an incident like that – call 911 with any information you have.

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“When we get good information, when we get identification of vehicles, when we get good identification of the shooters – what they look like, what they’re wearing – the more information we have, the more likely we are to catch people.”

Loftis acknowledged that the Washington State Patrol – like law enforcement agencies across the country – is dealing with a staffing shortage.

“We’re roughly 250 troopers down, right now.”

But Loftis said filling the WSP ranks alone won’t bring down the number of highway shootings. “Even if we had every squad car filled it still comes down to: do we agree to treat each other with respect, dignity, and safety?”

While he expressed concern that we may see a record – or near record – number of shootings on Washington highways by the end of the year, he added, “We have to be civil. We have to respect one another. We have to work with one another. We have to DRIVE with one another.”

 

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