Gun Violence Prevention

For years, there’s been an epidemic raging in King County that our elected leaders have not done nearly enough to address: gun violence. Just as we came together to act with urgency to slow the spread of COVID-19, we can bring public health officials, community leaders, and healthcare providers together to end this epidemic. The communities bearing the overwhelming brunt of this violence have been clamoring for help for far too long. It’s time we choose leaders who will invest enough in proven solutions to make a difference, not just a headline.

Our response to COVID-19 has proven that local government can act swiftly and effectively to keep people safe — if those in charge choose to make it a priority. My proposed comprehensive response to the epidemic of gun violence focuses on 5 key strategies to treat the epidemic of gun violence like the public health crisis that it is:

1. Fully funding community-resource centers in every unincorporated area of King County to support traumatized victims of gun violence and help provide the economic and emotional stability they need to live safe lives. In a study the County commissioned two years ago, our youth made it clear that “it’s easier to get a gun than to get a job.” Solving that problem is even more important for youth who are re-entering their communities after incarceration to ensure they have opportunities to rebuild their lives. It’s long past time for the County to act and make the investments they’re asking for to stop the cycle of gun violence.

2. Make sustained investments in meeting people’s basic needs. The map of where firearm homicides are most common strongly correlates with the map of how impoverished or under-resourced an area is, and experts have shown that poor social mobility is linked to higher rates of gun violence. As part of my plan for a Just Economy, King County will re-prioritize our discretionary budget away from the criminal legal system to invest in keeping people housed, fed, and helping them find work instead.

3. Provide permanent, safe, and readily available housing for those imminently at-risk of gun violence to interrupt the cycle of conflict before it becomes deadly. People who live with an individual who poses a threat to them or are involved in conflicts in their neighborhoods need a safe option to remove themselves from those situations. By ensuring people have a safe place to stay temporarily until that conflict can be resolved, we can prevent gun violence and avert needless tragedy.

4. Dramatically scale up investments in King County Zero Youth Detention and community-based violence prevention organizations with dependable, recurring revenue — not just one-time grants of emergency federal aid. This epidemic long predates COVID-19, and the organizations doing the essential work of preventing violence in our communities should not have to spend their energy fighting for scraps of emergency relief. The County pledged just $2 million in additional funding for violence prevention organizations in partnership with the City of Seattle while spending $42 million on the criminal legal system. If we’re truly prioritizing preventing violent crime, our budget must reflect those priorities.

5. Relentless advocacy for the repeal of state laws that prevent local jurisdictions from enacting their own common-sense gun safety prevention measures. Right now, state laws prohibit local governments like King County from banning assault weapons, limiting magazine capacity, and centralizing background checks to a single point of sale. Instead of accepting the limitations that our broken system puts on the County, I’ll use the bully pulpit of the Executive’s office to pressure every legislator from our community to give us the authority to keep ourselves safe.