The tragedy in Newtown, Conn. rocked our nation. And for good reason. Rarely - even in a world where such senseless acts of violence seem more and more prevalent - are we faced with a horror the scale of what transpired Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Along with triggering tears from all corners, the Newtown school shooting has inflamed the gun control debate, with many saying this latest school massacre - where 20 innocent elementary school kids lost their lives - will serve as a tipping point toward meaningful gun control legislation. Washington Ceasefire, a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to reducing gun violence, is one of the voices hoping that's the case.
This week, as part of our every Monday series "The Horse's Mouth," we chat with Washington Ceasefire Board President Ralph Fascitelli about gun control efforts in Washington, and why he thinks this tragedy is different.
Seattle Weekly: In the statement regarding the Newtown tragedy, you say you hope and believe our nation has "reached a tipping point" on the gun debate. Why will this time be different?
Ralph Fascitelli: It's different this time for two reasons: the victims were innocent little kids who never had a chance .. if we can't protect our most innocent it doesn't say much about our society. The other reason for a tipping point is that it's clear that no place is safe with recent mass shootings at coffee shops. movie theaters, shopping malls and elementary schools. ... Gun violence is up 47 percent in ten years, per the WSJ , and we are reaching a point when every day there seemingly is something new.
The gun control debate tends to be most visibly vocalized by organizations such as yours and the NRA. Where do you believe the public stands on gun control?
Two statewide surveys that we have done on assault weapons and closing the gun show loophole show over 80 percent support for common sense gun control, including a plurality of NRA households. When people understand the issue they are for common sense restrictions on guns.
Washington Ceasefire says that "five common sense laws that don't violate anyone's Second Amendment rights" can reduce gun violence? Can you explain these proposed changes to current gun laws, and how much impact do you think they could have?
Research by David Hemenway the Director of Injury Prevention at the Harvard school of Public Health show that while no single law is a panacea, a comprehensive set of laws can reduce gun violence by more than two thirds.
The five most important laws are:
- banning semi-automatic assault weapons that can fire more than 100 bullets a minute
- limiting bullets in a magazine clip to no more than ten
- closing the gun show loophole
- tougher penalties for underage possession of firearms
- empowering police chiefs and sheriffs with the last word on who get a concealed weapons permit
EXTRA CREDIT: How hopeful are you for meaningful change to occur in Olympia this legislative session?
I am a pragmatic optimist. We are going to put a lot of pressure on the new governor and speaker Chopp to get things done. We want them to worry as much about Washington Ceasefire as they do the NRA and we have the facts on our side. Washington legislators need to step up.