OLYMPIA – Washington likely will be the first state to create an office focused on reducing firearm violence through data analysis and a grant program to help communities and Indian tribes.
“We don’t need to wait until shots have been fired,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, in a statement. “We need to intervene to prevent violence before it happens.”
The bill passed the House with a minor admendment on a 53-44 vote and was sent back to the Senate for final approval before heading to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. Undert he Legislation the office would be known as the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention.
Gun violence is a national and statewide crisis that especially affects communities of color, said Rep. Christina Kilduff, D-University Place.
Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, said the focus of the office is too broad and it should only focus on firearm suicides to effectively address the problem.
County prosecutors, researchers, public health agencies and law enforcement departmentswould be involved in analyzing data, collection methods and gaps, according to the bill.
Kilduff said there needs to be a lasting mechanism for funding and a statewide coordinated approach to ensure the success of community intervention in addressing gun violence.
Several representatives raised concerns about the evidence-based research approach and suggested a peer-reviewed approach to data collection, but those amendments weren’t adopted.
The Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention would work with the Office of Crime Victim Advocacy to support victims of firearms violence, contract a statewide helpline, and offer counseling and referral services.
“We have an epidemic of gun violence before us. This bill will help move the needle and then some,” Kilduff said.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on March 6, 2020 to correct the status of the bill.