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Monday, September 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gun violence ‘has to stop somewhere,’ mother of Freeman shooting victim testifies

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 22, 2019, 9:47 a.m.

Ami Strahan, mother of Freeman High School shooting victim Sam Strahan, listens to testimony on gun control legislation during a state Senate committee hearing Monday in Olympia. Strahan, who wore a pin with Sam’s picture on her sweater, was one of the first witnesses in support of restrictions on high-capacity magazines. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
Ami Strahan, mother of Freeman High School shooting victim Sam Strahan, listens to testimony on gun control legislation during a state Senate committee hearing Monday in Olympia. Strahan, who wore a pin with Sam’s picture on her sweater, was one of the first witnesses in support of restrictions on high-capacity magazines. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – A proposed ban on high-capacity magazines would not have saved Sam Strahan in the September 2017 shooting at Freeman High School, but other students are probably alive because the rifle the shooter was carrying with such a magazine jammed, his mother Ami Strahan told a Senate committee Monday.

“It has to stop somewhere,” Ami Strahan said as she sat next to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the first panel for the hearing. “Common sense gun laws … will save lives.”

Ferguson, Strahan and Michael Van Dyke, a pediatric critical care physician at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, urged the Senate Law and Justice Committee to pass a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and a ban on guns made out of plastic from 3D printers, which can evade metal detectors.

Van Dyke said some of the worst injuries he’s seen are from firearms. When he was called in to the hospital for the Freeman High School shooting victims, he said he was devastated.

“Another preventable tragedy had occurred, this time in my backyard,” Van Dyke said.

As with all legislation on firearms, the four proposals at Monday’s hearing drew passionate supporters and opponents.

Opponents of the 10-round limit for magazines said many firearms come with larger magazines as standard equipment. A spokesman for the National Rifle Association said the ban would apply to more than half the magazines in the country.

Jane Milhans, who told of being assaulted in her home by two men, said women have the right to carry firearms for protection, and it may take them more rounds to stop an attacker. The proposal would affect law-abiding citizens, she said, but not criminals who don’t care whether their guns are legal.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, sponsor of the ban on plastic guns from 3D printers, said such a ban would not affect legal, traceable firearms, but would reduce gun trafficking and potentially save lives. Those printers, she added, “are here to stay.”

But opponents argued individuals should have the right to build their own firearms and said they doubted whether the bills would have the intended benefits. Ralph Meyers, who said he became a crime victim advocate after his son was murdered 25 years ago, called the bills “feel-good, politically expedient” laws.

“Gun control laws don’t work,” Meyers said.

Another bill would require police to seize the firearms and ammunition in a home if they have reason to believe they were used or threatened to be used in a case of domestic violence. Five days would have to pass before the owner could get the guns and ammunition back.

Dorothy Kim, a Seattle police officer, said the five-day wait would give victims time to obtain a protective order. Paula Barnes, of Sequim, said statistics show that domestic violence that involves a gun is five times more likely to be fatal.

But Natasha Gunia, with the Washington Firearms Coalition, said it’s the suspect, not the guns, who should be removed by police if more violence is likely. Police could also seize the victim’s gun under the law, leaving the victim “a sitting duck,” Gunia said

A fourth proposal would require anyone applying for a concealed pistol license to prove they have completed a firearms training course within the last five years that includes safety rules, safe storage, suicide prevention, techniques to handle violent confrontations and live-fire shooting exercises.

Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, the bill’s sponsor, has a concealed pistol license. He said the training provisions would put Washington in line with 27 other states which require some training for a concealed weapon permit.

“All of us, to get a driver’s license, have to take drivers ed for many months and then you have to pass a test,” Palumbo said.

Elizabeth Bennett, of Edmonds, said when she was in the Marines she had to go through extensive training and pass proficiency tests before she was allowed to carry a handgun.

But Sharon Hinchcliffe, of the Pink Pistols group dedicated to gun rights for the sexual minority community, said the proposal as written doesn’t prevent people charging excessive fees for the training and could result in “undue financial hardships to the working class and poor.” Also, she said, it doesn’t have accommodations for disabled people.

Ernst Schubert, of Snoqualmie, said while some states require training to get a concealed carry permit, some states don’t even require a permit. Such requirements, he believes, violate the Second Amendment.

“I believe people should be trained,” Schubert said. “But I don’t believe it should be a government mandate.”

Testimony on the four bills filled nearly two hours for the committee, which is scheduled to vote later this week on whether to move the proposals to the full Senate.

Ami Strahan, who had a button with her son Sam’s face pinned to her sweater, sat through the testimony, and later spoke at a press conference with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. It was her first experience with legislative activity and she found the polarization of the opposing positions “kind of frustrating.”

But she also said she will continue working for gun legislation throughout the session.

“I want to do what I can to help, for Sam,” she said.

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