Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough | Roegner

The violence must stop. And our elected officials have the ability to stop it.

In the first 130 days of 2021, there were 232 mass shootings.

President Joe Biden has lowered the national flag to half-mast five times. We now have more guns than people. And sharing our thoughts and prayers with the families of gun violence victims is no longer enough — and it never will be again.

Every public official — state and national — needs to be held accountable for not doing enough to change the laws and stop allowing guns to get into hands that they shouldn’t be in. We know the killing won’t stop unless our elected leaders stop it.

From Boulder, Colorado, where 10 people lost their lives, to Atlanta, Georgia, where another eight people were murdered. Then Houston, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Then nine more people at a transit yard in San Jose, California, including the shooter, who committed suicide. The problem has only gotten worse.

There was a time we thought schools were immune until the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School showed us families grieving the loss of 20 first-graders and six adults. Then in case we forgot, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, followed with 17 killed and 17 injured. Every child in those two schools had parents and grandparents, and some may have had brothers and sisters. We feel a kinship with those families because their days will never be the same again. We endure their pain as any parent would.

The madness is everywhere. Almost 300 children have died from gunfire in our schools. We think it will always happen somewhere else.

Not all are mass shootings. But the common denominator is guns and the ease with which they are available. In 2020, 6.5% of U.S. adults or about 17 million people bought guns, which is up from 5.3% in 2019. Since only about 20% were first-time buyers, which is the same from the previous year, it is hard to blame the pandemic.

Mass shootings are defined as those involving the deaths of four or more people. It used to be easy to blame the National Rifle Association because they hid behind an amendment that was fashioned when the one-shot musket was popular, as opposed to the repeat-fire weapons that are available today.

The NRA was formed over 150 years ago and has been the one of the most powerful pro-gun special interest groups for most of that time. The NRA used political pressure on candidates to vote its way, and donated to candidates to retain its influence. But the NRA may be as vulnerable now as it has ever been. The combination of attempting to claim bankruptcy while spending lavishly for its CEO has undermined its credibility in an attempt to move to Texas. But high living has finally caught up with the NRA. Politically, now is the time to say “never again” will we allow a special interest group with a goal of less regulations for guns to have that much power. Our children and grandchildren and our neighborhoods are more important.

Now is the time for the public to demand President Biden and Congress, including both Democrats and Republicans, to require stronger background checks before someone can own a gun. More money needs to be spent on mental health because someone always knows when a person they know or work with has mental health issues. That is why we have Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), which came after Sandy Hook. In November 2016, thanks to two legislators and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and passage by public vote, the “Extreme Risk Law” passed with a 69.4 % majority, which included many rural areas.

In 2017, 75% of gun deaths were by suicide. Rather than spend their time trying to advance gun rights, Republicans need to join with Democrats and put the lives of our young people first and tighten gun control laws, not weaken them. According to Pew Research Center, about 60% of Americans support stricter gun laws. Yet we don’t see passage of laws to implement that goal for the public.

Even in blue Washington state, a recent editorial called out legislators who passed legislation to not allow open carry on the Capitol Campus, and in some permitted protests, for not doing enough. This comes despite the most progressive session in years.

Between 1966 and 2012, one-third of the world’s mass shootings occurred in the United States. The violence must stop. And our elected officials have the ability to stop it! Or do we need another citizen initiative?

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

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