“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Amid a slew of gunpoint robberies that have occurred across Capitol Hill over the last two months, Mayor McGinn announced on Monday the formation of a new program designed to create a “Gun-Free Zone” in Seattle and help turn back the tide of gun-related robberies as well as reduce the approximate average of 550 gun related deaths seen in Washington State each year.
The campaign will center on providing businesses the ability to disallow any firearms on their premises by signing up at GunFreeSeattle.org. Participating businesses will then receive a decal to post outside their business to signify that anyone in possession of a firearm will not be allowed to enter the property, and the business will receive the full backing of the Seattle Police Department to ensure the policy is enforced. Capitol Hill businesses participating in the voluntary program include the Elliott Bay Book Company, Neumos, Linda’s, Moe Bar, Pike Street Fish Fry, Cupcake Royale, Oddfellows, and Havana.
“We are here to support businesses that do not wish to have guns on their premises,” McGinn said during the press conference held at Oddfellows. “The police department regularly enforces trespass laws when a visitor to a business violates that business’ rules. We will continue to do so, and I thank these businesses for standing up for the safety of their customers.”
According to Washington CeaseFire, the non-profit group that helped organize the program as well as providing the funds to run it, the need for a “Gun-Free Zone” and other gun-control legislation can be found in the growing number of gun-related deaths statewide, which has now reached an average of approximately 551 fatalities per year, or eight out of every 100,000 state residents, with 2010 seeing a peak number of 609 deaths – a figure that, as Washington CeaseFire has stressed, annually exceeds the number of traffic fatalities seen in the state.
While King County sports a lower average number of gun-related deaths than the state as a whole with only 6.7 deaths per 100,000, the total healthcare cost of cost of treating gun-related injuries and deaths in King County amounted to over $177 million in the period between 2007 and 2011.
In Seattle, a city that has taken one of the most progressive stances on gun control in the nation, the overall figure for gun-related deaths drops again to just 6.5 out of every 100,000, or approximately 40 per year. While that figure includes suicides with guns as well as homicides, it is more than double the number of deaths seen in the period of 2006-2007, which saw only 3.6 gun murders per 100,000 residents. In 2012, 26 homicides were recorded overall, while 20 occurred in 2011 and 19 in 2010.
A number of high-profile shootings in the city have helped bolster the increase over the last few years, including the May 2012 shooting spree at Café Racer that claimed five lives.
As a result of the rising number of gun deaths seen in the city, Seattle became the first to publicly fund research into the causes of gun deaths and methods of prevention this March in lieu of federal funded research, the result of a 17-year prohibition on such studies by Congress. Currently, up to $153,000 has been allocated for the research.
According to Washington CeaseFire’s website, which cites “Private Gun, Public Health,” by Dr. David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health for their figures, the best way to curb the growing number of gun deaths is through more restrictive legislation. States that do so see only one-sixth the amount of deaths as those with the least restrictive laws. Washington State has not banned the open carry of a firearm, so the organization believes that the establishment of a “Gun-Free Zone” will help alert state lawmakers that the public at large wants tighter restrictions on guns.
“We’re making a statement as a community,” said Washington CeaseFire Director Ralph Faciatelli. “We know this won’t stop someone determined to cause violence, but we hope that standing together and giving businesses a tool to say no to guns will change the conversation around gun violence. Maybe our message will even make it to Olympia. We need better tools now to stop gun violence in our community.”