Seattle officials on Wednesday said they're acting on students' call to action on gun violence with a new law requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms.
Over the next month, Mayor Jenny Durkan, city attorney Pete Holmes, and council member Lorena Gonzalez at the Harborview Medical Center announced they will craft legislation on gun safe storage, and harsher penalties on those who don't report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours.
"Our country, our city, and our county are in the grips of a public safety and public health crisis of gun violence," Durkan said Wednesday. "Their message to us as leaders has been clear—we have failed them and we must act."
The city's announcement comes a week after students across the country walked out of classrooms and demanded action on gun violence, exactly one month since a mass shooter in a Parkland, Florida high school killed 17 students and staff members. Alongside city officials, King County executive Dow Constantine said "this is a defining moment" for leaders to act after youth activism.
Though Durkan has called for more at a town hall on gun violence earlier this month—she said she believes assault weapons should be banned—local governments have limitations on what they can do. But the reality is, safe storage and follow-up on gun owners who commit crimes and by law are supposed to give up their guns could be a more effective prevention strategy anyway.
Often mass shootings don't necessarily involve assault weapons or an unlawful purchase of firearms. Washington state, for one, has had 15 mass shootings since 2014 that resulted in 32 deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The majority (17 deaths) involved someone prohibited from owning a firearm. Four deaths involved assault weapons, and two deaths came from an unlawful purchase.
According to the Seattle Police Department, 250 stolen guns from burglaries and car prowls were reported last year. Holmes said the city has recovered more than 200 firearms since the program to recover illegal firearms from owners with a domestic violence protection order.
"We're taking seriously the call to action from youth and their families to address gun violence in our schools, our communities, and within our own homes," Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday. "This legislation is about public safety."
Shootings are also just one small part of the picture—suicides make up two-thirds of U.S. deaths by gunshot, according to a study released last year by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Since Initiative 1491, which temporarily restricts gun access to owners who present a risk to themselves or others, about 70 weapons in Seattle have been recovered from extreme risk protection orders, interim police chief Carmen Best said.