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While the tempo of COVID era violence seems to be leveling off or declining around the country, that has not been the case in Tacoma.
And all you have to do is watch the news to realize how much of the violence involves firearms.
That's why next week, Tacoma is hosting a two day conference aimed at stopping gun violence.
That's part of the discussion next on Northwest Now.
You know, a gun is like a hammer.
It's just a tool.
But there are 400 million of them in private hands in the United States.
While only a tiny percentage are used for violence, there is a substantial body of evidence that shows that the more guns there are in any given population and the weaker that area's gun laws are, the easier the access and the more gun violence there is, whether the guns that are used are purchased or stolen.
And while mass public shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, get all the attention, they only account for about 1% of the gun deaths nationwide.
It is the day in, day out, steady drumbeat of almost routine shootings that do most of the numerical damage.
The CDC is latest numbers from 2020 show that during that period, the firearms homicide rate spiked 35%.
In all, about 100 people are killed every day by gun violence.
Violence involving firearms is now the number one cause of death among children and teens in the United States, with about 3200 per year being shot to death in that age group.
In Tacoma, a record 45 people were killed last year, 43 in shootings.
As Northwest now contributor Steve Higgins tells us, in hopes of simply reducing the number of surplus guns, the city held a gun giveback program at Cheney Stadium.
So far this year, Tacoma police investigated 13 homicides and include the use of gun violence that comes after last year when the city recorded some of its highest crime rates in decades, including where 40 people were gunned down.
Now, while those numbers are on the decline, we talked to some people who live near some of these crime scenes who tell us it feels like these guns are everywhere.
Thought it was fireworks.
I love it here.
It's exciting, but sometimes it's just too exciting.
That excitement came as gunfire on April 18th, only blocks south of Right Park.
Tacoma police say shortly after noon, a verbal altercation escalated into gunfire.
My first thought was, well, it's fireworks, but I didn't I thought that wasn't fireworks.
That was a gun.
Somebody rushed a 20 year old man to a nearby hospital.
But Tacoma police says he did not survive the shooting.
People care and they want to be safe and they want to help us help them be safe.
Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore says his department joined the children's Advocacy Center of Pierce County for a gun give back drive on April 30th for gun owners swapped unwanted weapons for $100 in gift cards.
I believe each time we do an event like this, we'll have more participation in the morning.
The line stretched from the parking lot at Cheney Stadium all the way to South Tyler Street.
By the afternoon, more than 100 were turned in, including some with illegal modifications.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and an up close look at this one right here.
Oh, yeah, that right there can have that Washington, cause I'm glad we have it.
Instead of wherever it was before.
Similar buyback programs resulted with 241 guns being turned into ever police back in December.
More than 200 were turned into federal police in February and another 200 to the King County Sheriff's Office in April.
National studies have not linked buyback programs with a reduction in gun violence, but some living near shootings believe removing unwanted guns keeps them from falling into the wrong hands.
Get them off the streets.
I have no doubt in my mind that the problem in this country is too many guns.
In Tacoma, Steve Pickens, Northwest now.
Well, reasonable people can debate the efficacy of gun buybacks.
What can't be debated is that gun violence is surging.
And that was a major focus of Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodard's March 16th State of the City address.
We've all read the headlines total homicides reached an all time high last year, resulting in the loss of 45 lives.
This is not the type of record that we want to set as the city.
Tragically, we have already lost six allies to homicide.
This year, three of which happened in just the first three weeks, and heartbreakingly involve gun violence among our youth.
As I've said before, this level of violence is an acceptable and must stop.
Last summer, we completed an assessment to better understand the level of violence among youth under 30.
One thing we learned is that firearms are too easy for our youth to access.
Nearly 5% of 12th graders I know 5% sounds like a small number, but 5% of 12th graders admitted to carrying a weapon to school at some point.
And just yesterday, as I sat in the same building with young people, students told me how easy it was for them to get a gun.
Police department data shows that every 48 hours a gun is stolen from a car, not from a person or a home, but from an unattended car.
Gun owners have a right to carry a gun, but also have the responsibility to secure it.
Part of the city's extensive anti-violence plan includes community outreach.
Next week, the city of Tacoma is convening the.
Together We End Gun Violence event in partnership with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
Joining us now are Trymaine Edwards, the engagement director for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Eleuthera lish with Seattle King County Public Health.
Thank you both for coming to Northwest now.
Great to have a conversation about an upcoming conference here in Tacoma.
Together we can end gun violence.
Really interesting concept.
Trymaine, start us out a little bit about who the alliance is and your role in it.
And give me give us a little background.
So I'm Trymaine Edward.
I am one of the directors with the Alliance for Government Sponsored Bility, which is a statewide organization here in the state of Washington that lives in a couple of buckets, but all around the world, you know, addressing gun violence in our communities and ending that harm in our communities.
And so we do a lot of that work through advocacy, through education and through partnerships.
So we have a, C, three, A, C four, and a PAC, which allows us to live in our public education space.
Under the C three, we have our C four that allows us to have a, you know, a grassroots presence and mobilization of folks to make sure that, you know, lifesaving legislation is passed.
And then we have a PAC which allows us to endorse candidates who believe in this platform, who believe in this work and this movement, and making sure that we have that support year round.
And, Elisa, explain the relationship then with public health, Seattle King County, you've obviously come alongside this group.
Talk a little bit about that relationship and how you fit in.
Happy to do it.
And thanks for having us here today.
So Luther Lish and I, direct gun violence, regional gun violence for public health, Seattle and King County, a new program in King County that's working to address gun violence by centering communities that are most impacted by gun violence in leadership roles to support their solution finding and execution of the solutions that they're bringing forward to addressing community gun violence and the harm caused.
So the public health folks got together with the alliance and decided that it would be something powerful to bring a coalition together, representing the grassroots to the very grass tops.
And so when we came together, we brought the state of Washington along.
We brought community organizations along, worked at that time with the city of Seattle, also with Everytown for Gun Safety and other folks on the same mission, to elevate this idea that together we could end gun violence.
Public health treats gun violence obviously as a public health issue and gives everybody an opportunity to find their role in being a part of the solutions to gun violence.
For everyone, from legislators to philanthropy and everyone else in between has a role in addressing gun violence.
So we've come together.
Together we end.
Gun Violence is now an inaugural conference that's partnered with the city of Tacoma and will be here in Tacoma May 25th, 26th, and hosting people from around the country, experts in this space and the community leaders and bringing them together, too.
So what will this look like?
What can people expect in Both of you can speak to this will be at the convention center.
I can't remember the venue for it, but what's the venue?
And and are there multiple?
Is it like a conference where you can go to different breakouts or how does it look?
Yeah, it's definitely going to be a little bit of all of the above.
So it's a two day conference hosted here at the Marriott Tacoma.
So we're going to have two days, first day we'll have some opening statements.
We'll have the mayor there, of course, with us as they partner with us.
We'll have a lot of local, locally based community organizations as well here as a part of that, because we want to make sure that while we are also in Tacoma, that we represent folks that are doing this work in this area.
But we'll also have, as you Eleuthera mentioned, having folks of different levels of this this work at local and national levels being a part of different panel discussions.
We're also going to have some breakout groups and then day two or additionally on top of those things, going to have a space where, you know, these various folks that Luther mentioned around our stakeholders, our ecosystem, if you will, of everybody who lives in the space with us to have some time together to take that knowledge base that we've placed before them, to really work together, work through things together, because it's important that we all work together.
I often say, you know, we've all heard the phrase, you know, it takes a village to raise a child, but it's also going to take that village to protect the child.
And really having all of these folks together for those two days to do that work is going to be really important.
And one of the things we're really proud of is centering survivors in this conversation.
And so the first panel on the first day will feature survivors who have taken action and started their own foundations and organizations and called others to action to be a part of something.
So we're really excited about.
How do you answer critics who say, here comes another big meeting of gun control, that they want to take away our firearms?
We've already had the assault weapons ban in place in the state.
What's left to do?
How do you answer that question?
If a bunch of like minded people for a good cause get together and the target is the Second Amendment?
How do you answer that?
Well, I think what's interesting about the public health approach is, again, it calls on everyone to do a part.
And so if we recognize that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens in America for the first time in history, I think we can all get together around the idea, as Trymaine said, that we really need to protect our young.
And I think we all share that value.
I think the other thing that's important about a public health approach is that because again, everybody has a role, we're partnered with law enforcement, we're partnered with community, we're partner with survivors.
There's a lot of perspectives in the room.
But what people share in common is an understanding that we have reached a point where, again, if gun violence are killing our young, we all have some work to do to roll up our sleeves.
You're familiar, too, with a Kaiser survey that recently came out.
One in five people has been touched in some way by gun violence in this country.
One of three people of color.
So, I mean, it's and just, you know, turn on the news and it's just shocking.
Something is broken.
Something is not working.
So this effort to to convene stakeholders together to continue talking about it is obviously, on the face of it, a worthy cause.
Here's the problem, though, Trymaine.
When it comes to Safe Streets and Project Peace and Tacoma Ceasefire and all the shows we've done over the years, it's very easy to get the good folks in the room.
They get the right people who see this as a problem that needs to be addressed.
That we need to try different things both on both sides.
It's getting the folks who the attention of the folks who aren't in that room, who are falling prey and committing gun violence, That's the problem.
How do we how do we I don't have an answer.
How do we how do we break through that?
And I think we can.
And this that I think there's spaces that, you know, we're going to have a lot of people who are doing the on the ground work, the boots on the ground.
Folk are severe, you know, community violence interrupters that are doing this work every day that are also going to be a part of this work, a part of these conversations.
And something that I love about this conference is we leave with an action plan.
You're living also with a network of people who can help address in those communities as well.
They've now got a new wealth of knowledge.
They've got a new wealth of community and resources to support them in that work, to continue to expand in those areas.
So that's a good point.
This isn't necessarily for that crowd.
It's to train up, beef up the the well-meaning people who participate, and then they go out and do their piece in the community.
And I think it's a little bit for everybody.
I mean, I think I will offer this this morning on the national news.
The first five stories were about gun violence.
And your statistics are absolutely right.
You know that who one in five and one in three and the disproportionate contact on communities of color.
But this morning, you know, a young white woman pulled into a driveway to do a U-turn and was shot by the homeowner.
And there are this affects everyone.
I think one of the things that changes the game for all of us is when it gets proximate, when we're close to it.
And so it touches certain communities and they take action and they stand up and they do the hard work.
But until everybody sees how it affects them, it can be difficult.
But, you know, we have 120 guns for every hundred Americans.
We're the most armed nation on the planet.
So clearly something the vast majority of them never involved in crime are never in the hands of a bad guy, are very responsibly owned and managed.
The bad guys, though, are always going to be able to get one.
How do we how do we really address the problem of the wrong people with.
It's a tool.
It's an intimate object.
We've got to keep it out of the wrong hands.
Well, I think understanding that, you know, weapons of war were intended to take lives.
They were not intended to get food.
They were not intended even just to protect a home.
They weren't literally intended to take lives.
I think the conversation has to get deeper and richer about what we're really arguing about.
What's really the arm wrestle here, no pun intended.
We are we are approach is to recognize that community partnered with government, partnered with schools, partnered with the alliance, and folks who are advocates and allies for a safer community.
And we talk about gun violence reduction.
We don't we know it's not going to end in my lifetime.
This is my 28th year in the work.
But things like gun buybacks, things like safe gun storage, like equipment that helps people store their guns and be responsible with their guns, there are harm reduction strategies that might help bridge us there.
Last 15 seconds, Trymaine.
If people want to get involved, what do they do if they want to if they want to tie into this?
I would say visit us at gun responsibility, that org that mentions a plethora of things and ways in which we do work in the state of Washington.
But we'll also be keeping people aware of activities like this that are happening and the places and spaces that they can live with us.
Thanks so much.
I wish you the best with your event.
Thank you so much.
Pleasure to be here.
It's safe to say the bad guys will always be able to get guns and won't follow the rules.
That's one of the major arguments of those who say the Second Amendment is the linchpin in securing all the rest of our rights.
Dave Workman is the senior editor at the Second Amendment Foundation.
Jane, Millions represents the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association and is the program coordinator at the Tacoma Rifle and Revolver Club, and she's also a firearms instructor.
Thanks both of you for coming in Northwest now.
Great to have a discussion in the context of this upcoming Together we end gun violence conference that the that the city of Tacoma is hosting with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
I wanted to get your take, Dave, on.
Obviously, we're going to be talking about guns and gun control in that context.
What other things do you think should come up and be part of that conversation?
Well, I think probably the focus more on a be on locking up criminals, getting tougher on armed criminals.
We have passed in this state three strikes and you're out laws.
Hard time for armed crime.
Both of those originated in this state.
And a couple of the guys that worked on that work in my building up at the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to keep and bear arms.
And at that time, if you'll recall, the gun control people were aghast.
They didn't like either one of those initiatives.
I also think that if if the city has decided to partner up with the alliance, they had to invite somebody from the firearms community to come down, provide home firearm safety, training, how to safely store firearms.
Some tips maybe about carrying firearms, applying for a concealed pistol license in the state.
I checked this morning and we're hovering right around 700,000 active concealed pistol license.
There's been a major rush for the purchase of firearms and also concealed permits.
And you know, the reason for that, of course, is if you look at the at the decline in the number of police officers that did to Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, where officers just feel, hey, we don't have any support from the city government anymore.
We're going someplace else.
And also, when you threatened to close the door, for instance, on assault weapons, it's like yelling fire in a crowded theater.
You're going to stimulate you're going to stimulate a lot of sales.
Jane, I wanted to talk to you about the assault weapons piece.
It looks like we're heading for a ban in this state.
But, you know, you're a firearms instructor and I think it's a good to hear from you.
People don't recognize they're used in a very small percentage of crimes.
They're also very expensive.
They're out there.
And, you know, people don't understand the financial barrier that stands between a bad guy who's just looking for something to knock off a liquor store with and an assault weapon, which are typically pretty high dollar.
Do you think that that is going to be effective?
Should it is it going to help this this gun violence problem at all, or do you think it was more window dressing?
This is window dressing.
First of all, the modern sporting rifle is the correct term for an AR 15 or it's it's an Armalite rifle.
So that rifle is not a military rifle and it is missed.
The the the public is misled that it's a military rifle.
It is not scary.
But I will tell you, that's just the stock I as a firearm instructor, I change the stock on all my rifles so that they're adjustable.
But let me tell you one thing.
They keep missing on these modern sporting rifles.
They are used in shooting competitions.
I used mine in Rifle League when I and three gun and Yeah, and all of those and and they are the most popular rifle for women.
And the reason why they're the most popular is because we can adjust them to fit our smaller size.
There's little to no recoil making them a much safer than a shotgun or sometimes they demonstrate with a 36 bolt action that's not on the endangered species list.
And the other thing that's really safe that a lot of people forget is that you can buy home defense ammunition for the modern sporting rifles.
So if I you lower velocity, well, when it hits an object, it opens up in flowers.
So if you.
All right you know, I'll close houses are these you're not going through walls.
Whereas 30 yard six cartridge would go straight through the wall or another callus.
At the end of the day, people forget it's a tube and an end around.
And that's what dictates the physics of of the weapon as opposed to how it looks, what the packaging on the outside looks like.
And the other thing, too, that I like to bring up is that some people this is their personal protection option, a choice that fits best for them.
I had a 70 year old student that her first firearm purchased for home defense was a modern sporting rifle.
It worked best for her.
So this bill would take away that option for many people.
Dave, This is the toughest question I ask firearms advocates, and I've had a couple actually stumble on it since I know you're a journalist and an author, though, I know you'll handle it well.
This is a tough one.
Why do people need a modern sporting rifle?
It's not a matter of needs.
Where does this need stuff?
We're talking not about guns here.
We're talking about rights.
And that's something that the other side of this argument has never wanted to recognize is they treat the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms as a government regulated privilege.
I don't order an AR 15.
Never have owned one.
They don't get my juices when I shot a lot of them.
There are a lot of fun and some of them have been just remarkably accurate.
I know guys that reload ammunition all winter long just to take the AR 15 in Montana and shoot prairie dogs.
I know other guys who have hunted coyotes in Washington state with a AR 15 because the the the bullet diameter in the cartridge itself doesn't make a very big hole in a hide.
They sell the pellets.
The idea that that someone shouldn't need a rifle.
I remember that there was a retired king County sheriff's deputy who once told me, hey, the day that they tell me I don't need one and can't have one, that's the day I'm going to need one.
It sounds like the the common ground of this event in Tacoma could be things like and the alliance is on board with this to really focusing on safe storage, really focusing on anti-theft.
Do you deal with that as an instructor and say, listen, yes, I'm going to teach you how to shoot, but I need to teach you how to keep your firearm secure as well?
And yes, we teach firearm safety.
In fact, the NRA certified classes safety is drilled into everybody.
And so we teach safe handling, safe storage, how to train your children.
We teach suicide prevention.
So that's another option that they could be teaching is suicide prevention.
That's most I think handgun deaths are a suicide.
So they when you hear about a conference like this, does it make you nervous?
Are you are you more optimistic or pessimistic that some kind of usable fruit will come out of it at the end of the day?
Or do you see it as another discussion basically about gun control?
It's I think that's what it's going to descend into is another discussion about gun control.
Look, I'm a firearms instructor, too, have been doing it for, I don't know, probably 30, 40 years.
And aside from being a journalist and an author, I write about firearms.
Guns are my beat.
Let's just make it short.
I have yet to see a discussion that starts off with all the great intentions, not descend into something about where we need to take that gun away.
We need to ban handguns.
We need to stop this.
We need to stop that.
That is not the way to deal with crime.
You deal with crime by dealing with the criminals, not with the tools that they use.
You know, I hear these discussions and I read stories all the time about gun violence killed so many, but that gun violence didn't kill anybody last year.
People or guns cause is a typical quote.
Cause that's nonsense.
Campbell, speak for gun control.
They talk about gun reform legislation.
That's gun control.
Gun safety legislation.
That's gun control legislation.
Last 30 seconds here.
Just a short period of time.
Do you also teach about the intent?
Good decision making?
The heart a little bit.
Is that something that's part of your instruction?
Yes, we teach that, too.
And there are some advanced classes called personal protection in and out of the home where we teach people that you may you have to think about what you're doing.
For example, I survived a home invasion by two men.
I didn't have to draw a firearm.
I knew that when that person stepped outside the house and there was a distance, the threat was gone.
So we teach that good.
Both of you, thanks for coming in Northwest now.
Responsible gun ownership isn't a problem now, and it never has been.
But what we're doing, is it working?
The bottom line, when it comes to gun violence, it's going to take some fairly well-established and data driven solutions to fix it.
Solutions that are going to be hard pills to swallow for both the left and the right.
If we want to reduce the bloodshed, I hope conferences like Together we end gun violence prove effective in convincing all sides to work together.
I hope this program got you thinking.
In talking to watch this program again or to share it with others.
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That's going to do it for this edition of Northwest now until next Time.
I'm Tom Layson.
Thanks for watching.