Washington State creates new 'firearm safety' agency
State rep. wonders value of new state office
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 10:22am
OLYMPIA – The Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention was launched on March 25 to address community gun violence.
It is part of the Department of Commerce and is a “statewide effort to coordinate evidence-based intervention and prevention strategies.”
“The office’s work will be directed at the highest risk populations of perpetrators and victims in the highest risk communities,” stated Penny Thomas, a representative of the department of commerce. “The office will focus on community gun violence disproportionately impacting communities of color.”
The office opened with an annual budget of $421,000.
The office intends to collect data, share information with various law enforcement agencies, offer training, coordinate state agencies, and administer programs for firearm violence prevention, according to the state.
“If it works, great. I just kind of wonder … In itself, it’s sort of vague,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, R-9th District.
Schick represents the 9th District, which is comprised of Whitman, Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield, and south Spokane counties.
“The insinuation is that we are not taking a look at gun violence and that’s not true. We look at it pretty scrupulously. What is this agency going to do that we are not already doing? … What are they going to bring to the table that we are not already doing?” asked Schmick.
Schmick suspects the new office won’t help prevent gun violence.
“I don’t think it truly will. I do think there is a possibility that it will affect Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Schmick said he sees better avenues to help prevent gun violence.
Money for the new office could be better spent to provide training to smaller police departments for training.
“They need to get their de-escalation training. This is where grant money will help,” said Schmick. “I hope it doesn’t take money away from small department funding.”
Prevention of gun violence should start with increasing access to mental health assistance, the state representative said.
“People who need counseling, mental health help, it’s hard to get,” said Schmick. “There needs to be better access to mental health care in the state.”
Despite seeing different priorities, Schmick still hopes the office will be able to help prevent firearm violence but has his doubts.