Up for debate: Would gun control stop violence?
Although gun control measures have failed in the state Legislature this session, the debate is far from over.
Aware of local concerns after the Newtown massacre, the Snohomish County Health and Safety Network will host a Town Hall-style debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way.
State Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, will moderate the debate, with the Monroe Police Department in support of legislation and the Second Amendment Foundation in opposition.
Students from the Kamiak High School debate team will also talk pros and cons of gun control.
“We’ve received some pushback from both sides, and have had difficulty putting up fliers,” said Chris Jury, the program coordinator.
“Surprisingly, we’ve had some local firearms dealers who feel there’s no merit for a debate. They rejected the idea and refused to accept fliers.”
The debate is the brainchild of two youth councils involved with the Health and Safety Network: The Central Youth Council, with members from the Everett and Mukilteo school districts, and the East Youth Council, with members from the Sultan School District.
The high school students became worried, as did many throughout the state, after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14.
“The idea really took off right around the time of the Sandy Hook incident,” Jury said. “Young folks were paying a lot of attention to the news and felt frustrated and concerned about the safety of their own schools.”
The youths wanted to open a dialogue on whether gun law reform could prevent further violence, like the mass shootings in Connecticut and elsewhere. The Health and Safety Network agreed to sponsor it.
The state Senate decided not to vote on a bill on April 17 that would have required residents who are placed under a restraining order to surrender their weapons.
The measure had passed in the House by a 61-37 vote but didn't get consideration from the Senate.
Chief Tim Quenzer of the Monroe Police Department will be debating the pros of gun control. Quenzer has been police chief of Monroe since 2002 and has 39 years of experience in law enforcement.
Debating the cons of gun control will be a representative of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Two students from the Kamiak High School debate team will also join the debate panel on each side of the issue – one pro- and one anti-legislation.
“This is a project of the young folks, so we wanted their opinions on both sides of the issue to be front and center,” Jury said.
Liias said the debate would be an opportunity for the community to hear both sides of the issue and to share their thoughts and ideas on gun control.
As moderator, Liias said he is going to have each panelist introduce his side of the argument, but then designate the rest of the time to a Q&A and open discussion with the audience.
“This is an issue that often leads to strong feelings on both sides of the debate, and as a result lots of misinformation is spread,” Liias said.
Lawmakers also considered a bill earlier in the session to expand background checks on gun sales, but that measure failed to get enough votes in the House.
Under current law, checks are required when residents purchase a weapon from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Supporters said changing the laws wouldn’t stop gun violence, but would make it harder for criminals to get weapons. Opponents argue that none of the bills would have prevented Newtown.
Jury said he’s heard from several anti-gun groups who question the Health and Safety Network’s motives for allowing both sides of the argument to be part of the discussion.
“Their take on it is, opponents are pretty much getting their way already, so why give them another platform,” Jury said. “However, it’s not much of a debate if the pro gun side isn’t engaged.”
Liias has co-sponsored two gun control bills, including the one on background checks. He said he believes in the right to bear arms, but also believes in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
“This will be a great opportunity for our community to come together to discuss what are valid concerns on both sides of the issue to figure out what, if any, changes we should try and make,” he said.
The Health and Safety Network also sponsored a debate on marijuana legalization last year to discuss Initiative 502, which later passed to allow decriminalization of the drug in the state.
“The 1-502 debate was a great example of a hot-button issue where we were able to have a big community dialogue about it in a completely civil way,” Jury said. “Our biggest hope is that this debate be very similar and as successful as the last one.”
For more information, contact Chris Jury at 425-252-2668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.