On Jan. 8 former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords dropped in the hopper bipartisan legislation to expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms. The date marked the eighth anniversary of the 2011 shooting in Tuscon, Arizona at “Congress on Your Corner” that killed six people and injured Giffords with 13 other people.
Giffords brought a neighborly approach to politics to meet people at the local level. H.R.8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 may go to the House the week of Feb. 25.
I ask that the Renton Reporter cover salient legislation from a public health and safety perspective. In the past, I felt surprised and disappointed that the Reporter on Nov. 30, 2018 assigned so many pages to one commercial for-profit perspective about gun shop worries over Washington State Initiative 1639 without addressing the tension with revenue of gun sales and public health and safety concerns.
Lives matter more than profit. I want people to live without fear. I empathize with people who have lost loved ones and with communities who experience greater threat of violence.
In the United States, an average of eight children and teens and 96 adults died from gun violence daily from 2011-2015, according to the Brady Campaign; CDC.
We need to accept responsibility to manage risk with what we allow. Legislation can function as do mechanical governors that measure and regulate the speed of machines. We don’t oppose governors on cars or scalpels for surgeons or training for licensure. Governors safeguard against human or mechanical error. Skilled operators need impulse control, and non-skilled or compromised operators more so.
The gun debate runs hot because it rises from the extremism of our times. We’ve lost a human reference when we lobby a thing over a person. We confuse a principle when we lobby a thing in its place. We’ve assigned power to a thing when we argue that this thing is our right with notions of ownership that feed control, superiority and conquest. This logic shows a dark side to the argument that it’s not guns who kill people it’s people who kill people. This logic concedes that people kill people. We’ve consensus that we share risk in weapon use.
People need to know reasonable expectations about health and safety for daily life. As a norm we manage a spectrum of risk in many activities. For example, laws and street design encourage us to share the road with pedestrians and cyclists, and at least we’ve enough goodwill to wait our turn unless we feel entitled to the road instead of them.
Similarly, gun shop owners, gun owners, lobbyists and well-funded lobby organizations can recognize a spectrum of risk that people encounter with the product that they endorse and share the road with the rest of us.
The second amendment needs to be weighed in context. We need life first to know liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness comes with connecting with, and contributing to, the well-being of people and place. These imperatives act in concert, and not line-items to brandish at people.
Freedom carries responsibility, and not laissez-faire do as you please with zero regulation. We need to advocate for those vulnerable and hurting from gun violence. We need to remember who and what we protect, and be open to possibilities beyond one machine to protect a way of life. Other possibilities include the slower work of community, neighborliness, friendship, creativity, play, faith, and innovation around limitations and need. Budget for what we value. Then build thriving, loving, humane, safe, and neighborly homes, schools, health systems, public commons, places of worship and recreation, and communities to last.
We can hold larger conversations about what matters to us. We can regain a democratic method of justice for all instead of lobby, and better govern and fund matters of basic needs with safe love to continue and thrive together beyond ourselves.
Write those stories down for future generations, and share them, beyond figures and worries about profit margins and machines. Let’s do what we can to improve our shared quality of life and place for each other. That’s what neighborly heritage is all about.
Dena Michele Rosko is a resident of Renton.