Gun safety concerns spill into town hall meet

By Chloe Wilhelm - Staff Reporter

Concerns about the reports of gunfire at Highline figured prominently when community members met with legislators at a town hall meeting in Des Moines on Saturday.

State Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac; Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines; and Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, spoke at the meeting and expressed their concerns about the incident.

"Everyone is on edge about safety in our schools," Sen. Keiser said.

She said that there has been progress with gun control legislation, particularly with the Senate passing Senate Bill 5992, which would prohibit the sale, manufacture, purchase, transport, and possession of bump-fire stocks.

These are accessories that allow semi-automatic firearms to mimic the firing speed of fully automatic guns.

The bill is awaiting action in the House.

Sen. Keiser encouraged community members to support these initiatives through the ballot and have a strong vote.

"[There is] a strong divide in the Legislature on this issue," Sen. Keiser said. "The real solution has to be through the people."

Gun control is a principal topic these days with the recent school shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead. So are issues regarding mental health.

Rep. Tina Orwall said the Legislature is also trying to focus on initiatives that would focus on mental health and do more to recognize when students are struggling.

"Early intervention is so important," Rep. Orwall said. "All students should feel safe in our schools."

At the meeting, legislators also stressed the importance of education, and spoke about a variety of bills currently being debated in the Legislature.

Rep. Orwall discussed the importance of Senate Bill 6029, which if passed will establish a student loan bill of rights and put advocates on college campuses to help students manage their student loans.

"I want every kid to have a path to be successful," she said.

Rep. Orwall also responded to questions about fully funding the State Need Grant.

"This year should be the year we fully fund the State Need Grant," she said. "Often you need additional support, and often it's not there."

She also stressed the importance of funding K-12 and special education.

Many community members brought up the issue of air quality and impacts on the quality of life with those who live near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Sen. Keiser said that if passed, House Bill 1171 would provide a statewide study conducted by the University of Washington on the environmental impacts of the airport.

According to the House Bill Digest, the bill would also complete an assessment on a variety of chemicals relating to air traffic and the risks they may provide to those living in the area.

The bill is being debated in the House. According to the bill's fiscal note, it will cost the state nearly $900,000 to complete the study.

Sen. Keiser said that the Legislature is also working on supporting solar and hydro power and renewable energy with bills focusing on climate change.

When community members brought up the issue of stagnant wages, Sen. Keiser said that she supports the initiative for a $15 minimum wage.

"We need to help people achieve their best futures," she said.

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