Opinion

Tough steps needed to end senseless shootings in nation | Mayor's message

This is the time of year when most of us get ready to enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. It’s a time when we reflect on the past year and begin planning for the New Year. And under normal circumstances, I would take this opportunity to recap all of what the city has accomplished this year. Given the horrific massacre of 20 innocent children and six of their dedicated teachers in Connecticut, I feel that it was more relevant for me to share my thoughts on this tragedy. No matter where you go today, people are talking about what will certainly rank as one of the most tragic events to ever hit this nation.

I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the incident in Newtown. Our hearts are with you and we share your pain. Throughout our country, people are truly grieving for these kids, the teachers and their families.

I also want to reassure the residents of our city that that my administration is working closely with the Renton School District to look out for the safety of our children. But this tragedy, along with the other recent mass shootings reminds us that, as a society, we need to work together not just to respond but to prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. Throughout our country elected officials at all levels of government have expressed concern about the lack of gun control in this nation. The status quo is not acceptable anymore and we have to stop this senseless gun violence.

I have joined cities across the county and signed a letter from the United States Conference of Mayors to the President asking for immediate action to introduce and pass legislation and make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations. The letter calls for the following:

• Legislation to ban assault weapons and other high-capacity magazines

• Strengthen the national background-check system and eliminate loopholes

• Strengthen the penalties for straw purchases of guns

But gun control is only one step. Mass shootings have become much too common. Locally, we’ve had incidents at Southcenter, Tacoma Mall and the recent shooting at a mall near Portland. In Colorado, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded in a movie theater. And at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, seven people were killed and three others wounded. Over and over again, we are victimized by someone who is mentally ill. We struggle to try and understand how anybody can become so deranged as to execute defenseless little boys and girls in their classroom or innocent people in malls and theaters. This isn’t supposed to happen in a civilized society.

While gun control is important, what we really need is a more robust mental health system. It is our responsibility to spend more time helping identify people with depression and helping them get help.

As our state wrestles with budget priorities, it is my hope that we pay more attention to mental health services – to provide the resources for individuals with serious mental illnesses to receive treatment. And if necessary they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. We cannot afford not to do so. We cannot afford to wait for another tragedy before taking meaningful action.

(Editor’s note: Straw purchase of guns refers to the purchase of a gun for someone who is unable to do so.)

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