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King County Council Holds Meetings Addressing Gun Violence And Its Impact On Families and Communities

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King County Council Holds Meetings Addressing Gun Violence And Its Impact On Families and Communities

Sean Goode

By Aaron Allen,

In recent weeks, the King County Council held a series of meetings to discuss gun violence and the impact that gun violence has on our communities.

According to Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the purpose of the meetings was to put a face to the families that are left to pick up the pieces of gun violence, and to hear from the families who are advocating for change and how the are having to heal and cope with the death of a loved one.

 “I believe that it is critical that we hear from survivors and impacted individuals of gun violence, plus those on the ground trying to make a difference by promoting peace,” said Kohl-Welles. “It is my hope that these conversations will lead us as body coming up with tangible ideas that will make a difference in our communities to detour the cycle of violence and harm caused by firearms, it’s no easy task.”

Erin Cizmas, a woman who lost her father to suicide, spoke about the death of her father and shed light on the diversity in which gun violence can impact families and community

 “In 2002 my dad killed himself with a gun — the loss was immeasurable,” says Cizmas. “Our lives were forever changed. There are many families out there like mine. Families that have been devastated by suicide, families whose personal experiences with gun violence that don’t make the headlines, we are the faces of everyday gun violence. We are part of a bigger story of gun violence in America and it is really important to see the entire story. It is important to see us and it’s important to do what we can to curb this through education and outreach and whenever possible gun legislation.”

Lynniah Grayson who lost the father of her child to gun violence in 2021, believes that government agencies need to invest in curbing gun violence as a public health issue and strengthen the support for the families of the victims.

 “Gun violence is a public health issue, a public health crisis similar to covid 19,” say Grayson. “[I believe that] it will take similar investments as what we saw with COVID in order to see a difference with gun violence. A public health approach does require mutual accountability amongst partnerships across varies agencies. There’s a lot of work being done in King County, and I am thankful for the work that is taking place however that work does not include the most vulnerable.”

 “It saddens me that the support does not exist for mothers and children who are impacted,” she added.

Sean Goode, Executive Director of Choose 180, a non-profit organization that transforms systems of injustice and supports the young people who are too often impacted by those systems, says that support and intervention are needed it order to curb the cycle of gun violence that is present in our community.

 “All of us come to this work in a variety of different ways and all of us are grounded in what’s happening problematically but with our lived experienced that informs our approach. That’s important to me,” says Goode. “I want folks to know that what we are talking about here is not a “pie in the sky” aspiration that’s grounded in some sort of hope to get people who caused harm off the hook or from not getting penalized for what it is that they have done, but because we don’t understand the victims’ perspective.”

 “Because all of us, each and every one of us have also been harmed by gun violence,” Goode continued. “But what we know because of the journey that we’ve been on is that a circle or cycle of harm will not be interrupted by causing more harm but by only introducing people to an intentional healing journey, and the quicker we are able to engage people who have been harmed and those who have caused harm in a healing journey the more likely we are to stop this redundant cycle of violence that continues to plague our community.

Renee Hopkins of Alliance for Gun Responsibility says that it is important that people don’t turn a blind eye to gun violence, and recognize that the data related to gun violence, regardless of the format that it is viewed, represents real people, real victims and their families.

 “We can talk about data for days and the data is vitally important, but we must remember for every data point there is somebody lost to gun violence, injured by gun violence or threatened by gun violence,” says Hopkins. “There is a person, and that person is connected to family and that family is connected to a community. Every life lost has devastating consequences that ripple through our society.”

In her closing arguments Grayson reached out to the legendary human rights activist and first Black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela to bring her point home quoting.

 “Safety and security don’t just happen they are the result of collective consensus and public investment we owe our children the most vulnerable citizens in our society a life free violence and fear.”

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