Legislators grilled on gun control at Meadowdale town hall

Police distribute free gunlocks
By Jesse Blair | Feb 22, 2018

The national debate on gun control and legislation was a hot topic Saturday, Feb. 17, during a 21st Legislative District Town Hall at Meadowdale High School.

How hot? The Mukilteo Police Department offered free gunlocks, and more than a few attendees wore brightly colored T-shirts that read “Every Town for Gun Safety.”

The event, following a telephone town hall Thursday, featured 21st District representatives Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo) and state Sen. Marko Liias.

The district represents neighborhoods in Edmonds, Everett, Mukilteo and Lynnwood.

Ortiz-Self works as a school counselor in the Everett School District. She became emotional when answering a question about a request for protective gun laws. “It’s kids we are losing. Enough is enough.”

She said she is tired of being accused of taking Second Amendment rights away, and is simply advocating for common sense gun laws.

Liias added that a bill had been passed for people with mental health issues to be put on a “do not buy” list.

“Gotta come back. Gotta come back,” Peterson said, about passing gun bills. He added that he is not as enthusiastic about the effectiveness of gun safety laws after the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Participants also asked questions about school funding.

“What is fully funded education?” asked a woman who said she was born in a communist country. She added that $13,000 is spent each year for every student, but that does not guarantee better results.

Ortiz-Self said the Constitution mandates fully funded education. With the 2008 recession, however, cuts were made and schools began falling apart. But laws have been passed to get money back into education.

(Edmonds homeowners saw a significant increase in their property taxes in 2018 – an average of nearly $800 – mostly due to changes in education funding. In 2017, the Legislature passed a bill partly in response to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. The court found that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education.)

Ortiz-Self said she wants the money to go to those who need it most, noting that teachers are underpaid and more money needs to go to special education.

“It is our constitutional obligation that all children receive a free and appropriate education,” she said. “And that means kids with disabilities, kids who don’t speak English, kids with special-ed needs, kids who are in highly capable classes.”

Liias added that it is morally unacceptable that a generation of kids has attended underfunded schools.

Of course, taxes were a concern at the town hall, to put in mildly.

A question was raised about high taxes, toll roads, high property taxes, carbon taxes, and voters getting voted down. “When is enough, enough?” asked the citizen. “Why do you think you are entitled to my money?”

“We pay the same taxes everyone else does,” Liias answered. He added that toll roads were put in place so only those who drove them would have to pay. Otherwise, the burden would be shared with everyone through higher gas taxes.

Opioid addiction also was discussed.

A parent spoke about her son, a former heroin addict now clean for two and a half years and gainfully employed. She stated that the state isn’t helping when it provides a safe injection sites. She has attended two funerals from people who have overdosed.

Peterson applauded the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department and mental health workers who have gone out into the community and into homeless camps to get addicts into treatment.

He added that the House has just passed a statewide drug take-back bill. “So we can get these drugs out of our medicine cabinets and keep our kids from going down that path of addiction,” he said.

Peterson said it’s time to get beyond the shame and stigma of drug addiction and suicide in order to put good policies in place. He is thankful that people are willing to share these sensitive issues.

 

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