November Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to everyone who got out the vote this week. Some of the races at stake in local elections — including the Washougal mayoral race, the city council races in Camas and Washougal and the Washougal school board race — can have a great impact on the future livability of East Clark County. The vast majority (nearly 80 percent) of Clark County voters did not add their voice to these very important local issues. But those who did should feel proud of themselves for caring about local politics and for getting their ballot in on time. Let’s all strive to do better, to learn about the candidates and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

Jeers to those still using that tired “what about Chicago?” argument to quash gun control conversations after yet another man toting a semiautomatic rifle opened fire on unsuspecting citizens this week.

Five weeks ago, it was country music concertgoers in Las Vegas. This week, it was worshippers inside a Texas church. Among the 26 dead at this most recent massacre: An 18-month-old, the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old whose three siblings had also been shot. Five years and nearly 1,500 mass shootings ago, it was 20 first-graders excited about the upcoming winter holidays, and brave teachers trying to shield those babies from the bullets raining down on them.

Sandy Hook was so horrifying, so shocking, that it should have put a swift end to our national obsession with guns. Instead, sales of the AR-15, the weapon used in that shooting and in most mass shootings, skyrocketed. Not too long after Sandy Hook, the NRA, the politicians they finance and the far-right media outlets they support started bleating “what about Chicago?” whenever the issue of gun control came up.

Yes, Chicago has strict gun control laws as well as a gun violence problem. That doesn’t mean that gun laws don’t work. They do. They work in other states, like Hawaii, which has strict gun laws as well as an extremely low gun death rate. Chicago is surrounded by places like Indiana, which have loose gun laws. People bring the guns in from other places. It’s not that gun laws don’t work — it’s that we need them on a national level.

In other countries, brutal mass shootings have prompted some of the toughest gun laws in the world. In the United Kingdom, two mass shootings — one in 1987 and another in 1996 — led to bans on semiautomatic weapons as well as handguns. Likewise, in Australia, the 1996 Port Arthur shooting, in which a man killed 35 people in less than 30 minutes, led to one of the world’s strictest gun laws.

Since then, there have been no mass shootings in Australia and one mass shooting in the UK.

National gun control laws work in other places. We don’t have to keep questioning their effectiveness at stopping mass shootings. It is time for our national leaders to stop deflecting, stop asking “what about Chicago?” and start doing something to address this madness and make us all safer.

Jeers also go out to Washougal Mayor Sean Guard for his recent decision to override a 4-3 Washougal City Council vote to ban personal fireworks inside city limits.

As the executive director of Columbia River Veterans, a group trying to build a therapeutic retreat for military veterans on county-owned acreage near Woodland, and a registered lobbyist for military veterans, Guard has some explaining to do.

After all, one of the biggest arguments against allowing personal fireworks inside urban areas is that they can trigger some incredibly painful memories for combat veterans.

“An estimated 7 to 20 percent of the more than 2.5 million veterans and troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to have developed PTSD,” says the nonprofit group Military with PTSD. “According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, loud blasts and flashing lights can sometimes induce panic attacks. … The thoughts are triggered for combat veterans by the sound of an explosion or gunfire or even certain sights and smells.”

Is Guard an advocate for veterans or not? Or is he simply showing off his power during his last days as Washougal’s mayor? His decision didn’t come off as leadership, but as a petty insult to citizens who have worked so hard to ban personal fireworks in Washougal.