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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Regina Malveaux: To keep our families safe, it’s time to talk about guns

Regina Malveaux

As the mother of two adult children, and now a proud GlamMa, as my granddaughter affectionately calls me, I’ve spent the better part of two decades talking with other moms about everything from lighter subjects like homework, orthodontia and college applications, to more serious issues like auto accidents and teen dating violence.

We not only want to keep our kids safe but we really want them to flourish. I have never met a parent – regardless of their background, where they live, what they do for living or how they vote – who didn’t want their kids to be safe in their homes, schools or community.

That underlying value has guided both my career and volunteer work over the last three decades. It led me to law school as a single mom, and to advocating for others while working in both Congress and the White House during law school. It is also what brought me to “the other” Washington where I serve as the CEO of the YWCA Spokane.

It is our job as adults and members of our community to create an environment where kids are safe and can flourish. We ensure our kids wear their seat belts, sunscreen and bike helmets. And it’s no different when it comes to gun violence.

We need common-sense gun laws that protect rights AND keep children and families safe. We can do both.

In fact, we have been doing both in our state. In just three years, we have passed universal background checks and created a tool for family members to request temporary removal of firearms from a loved one in crisis or when an abuser is showing escalating signs of violence. We have also created a notification system for law enforcement and victims when a former abuser illegally tries to buy a gun. These policies were supported by the majority of voters in Washington and data show that voters continue to support common-sense laws like these.

Jan. 8 marked the beginning of the 2018 legislative session in Olympia. When it comes to gun violence prevention, the bills our legislators will consider deal with suicide prevention, safe storage of firearms to ensure kids can’t access guns in the home, and increasing background check requirements for assault weapons.

What these laws have in common is that they all take a public health and safety approach to gun violence. We know that 75 percent of teens who attempt suicide use a gun found in their home or that of a close relative and nearly all school shootings were committed by youths who accessed weapons in the home. How do we prevent those teens in crisis from accessing lethal means? We educate and legislate around safe firearm storage.

We know that Washington’s suicide rate is higher than the national average. So we work to break down the barriers to care, reduce stigma in talking about suicide and create tools that help families take care of each other. At 19 I lost a dear friend to gun-related suicide; I wish we’d had more of those tools then. We know that there is no one program or law that will end gun violence, however we also know that creating a network of commonsense laws that work together interrupts cycles of violence and saves lives.

Because I know these bills will save lives in my community and help keep Spokane children and families safer, I invite you to join me in communicating with our legislators to urge their support of commonsense gun policies like Dangerous Access Prevention and Enhanced Background Checks on Assault Weapons.

As a mother and professional who has worked as an advocate over the last 20 years, I know how important it is for citizens to engage in the legislative process. As citizens, we aren’t just part of the process, we are often the ones driving change. I hope you join me in driving change to protect our children, families and communities.

Regina Malveaux is CEO of the YWCA Spokane and a longtime advocate for common-sense gun laws that keep domestic violence victims and their children safe.

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