By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound
Standing in the building where nearly eight years ago she lay on the floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound inflicted by a man who minutes later would kill one of her coworkers, Cheryl Stumbo stood before press, colleagues and former coworkers to launch a new nonprofit organization, the Center for Gun Responsibility.
“Gun violence happens around us every day,” she said at the conference at the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, about the launch of the organization for which she’ll serve as a member of its executive committee. Stumbo was one of six women shot on July 28, 2006 when a gunman claiming he was upset about Israel’s treatment of Muslims forced his way into the building.
Celie Brown, board chair of the Jewish Federation, kicked off the conference, which included faith leaders, activists for gun control, and State Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-41st), who said he appreciates that the mission of the organization will “provide solid research and data to back up the claims” made by all sides of the contentious issues surrounding gun violence.
The Center for Gun Responsibility, which will be a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is a sister organization to the Initiative 594 campaign, in which voters will decide this November whether Washington State should require background checks on all firearm purchases. This organization, however, hopes to look at the gun issue more holistically — and beyond November — with a four-pronged approach:
• Public education campaigns to raise awareness of gun responsibility.
• Research on gun violence and usage.
• Legislative and policy development to give current and relevant data to state and local lawmakers to help reduce gun violence. This will be a small part of the center’s mission, its leaders said.
• Partnerships with local agencies to fulfill the rest of its mission.
Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for the Seattle–King County Dept. of Public Health, said his department backs the formation of this organization because he believes firearms are a public health issue, and the data from shootings can be used to create sound policy.
“Gun-violence deaths are inherently preventable,” he said.
He also noted that the ability to gather data on shootings has been hindered by federal bans on funding of data about firearms use. The center should be able to make such data gathering possible, at least in Washington State. Rev. Sandy Brown of First United Methodist Church in Seattle, another executive committee member, said he hopes the center will serve as a guide for other states hoping to curb gun violence in their own communities.
“Other organizations are looking to Washington State,” he said.
The Center for Gun Responsibility will be funded from the grassroots, Stumbo said, which she believes is important because it can show that people in their communities want to see change when it comes to gun violence.