An Open Letter from Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski on the Tragedy in Parkland, Florida

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It’s hard to know how to talk about yesterday’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were murdered in the halls of a high school.

I could approach it as a mother of three who is sick at the thought that our children aren’t safe in their own schools.

I could approach it as a former Seattle City Councilmember, and Chair of the Public Safety Committee, who learned from law enforcement how to properly use a gun and knows firsthand the devastation that firearms can inflict.

I could approach it as a co-founder of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting with the goal of working toward common sense gun solutions.

I could approach it as a member of the LGBTQ community, which has been targeted in previous mass shootings.

But parents across the country are scared and want answers — my voice can hardly add to their collective and anguished cry for help. Today there are people in local governments everywhere in America trying to tackle the problem of gun violence. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility is still running strong in Washington and can speak to its own record of progress and impact. And the public is more aware now of violent hate crimes against targeted and vulnerable groups.

So the role I can play that is most useful right now is that of the Washington State Democratic Party Chair. That’s who I am; it’s what I do. And to those who will bemoan the political nature of my message today: The path toward meaningfully addressing our gun violence problem in America is clear, and — whether you want to hear it or not — it is a political one.

Yesterday’s shooting ended 17 lives and forever changed many more. In Parkland, yesterday was the worst kind of nightmare. But in America, yesterday once again reflects a new and horrifying reality. There are mass shootings — many at schools — so frequently in this country, that the visceral, painful reaction they once produced has morphed over time into a cycle of social media outrage, the  dull numbness of helpless resignation, and no real change. Ever.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

The American people have asked Congress to take action time and time again. And time and time again, Republican lawmakers have ignored these pleas or assured us that there is nothing that can be done. They gaslight their constituents by scoffing at the idea that fewer guns might mean fewer gun-related deaths. They refuse to entertain that they may be wrong, and they have even forbidden the Center for Disease Control from conducting substantive research on the public health implications of the prevalence of firearms in America.

Republican lawmakers are stymieing meaningful reform because they are completely beholden to the money of the gun lobby — powerful organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) that give large sums of cash to lawmakers who do their bidding and protect the profitable flow of arms.

The gun lobby overwhelmingly supports GOP candidates, contributing $5.9 million into Republican campaigns in the 2016 election cycle, compared with $106,000 to those of Democrats.

In Washington state, the numbers look like this:

  • Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler: $95,298 in NRA support.
  • Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers: $26,766 in NRA support.
  • Representative Dave Reichert: $21,778 in NRA support.
  • Representative Dan Newhouse: $4,000 in NRA support.

And Dino Rossi — running to replace Rep. Reichert in the 8th Congressional District — well, the NRA spend $419,350 trying to elect him to the Senate in 2010. I wonder how much they’ll spend this year when they know the winner of that race will help determine which party controls Congress.

Meanwhile, none of our Democratic elected officials in Washington, DC have ever taken money from the NRA.

We have given Republicans every opportunity to correct their misguided course and stand on the side of protecting our children’s lives, rather than cowering to the demands of the gun lobby. They have declined. And declined. And declined.

So starting today, the Washington State Democratic Party will be singling out Republicans in Washington State who are in the pocket of the gun lobby. We will call them out again and again all throughout 2018. Republicans hide behind pro-gun special interests because they have calculated that it is the safe thing to do. It will not be safe any longer.

What can you do? Lots. For some of you, that might be volunteering with or donating to gun reform groups that are actively seeking common sense solutions to gun violence. For others, that might be helping us elect people to public office who are intent on protecting our children and standing up to the gun lobby.

The gun lobby wants us to feel helpless. But when we vote their Republican pawns out of office and break their stranglehold on Congress, they’ll see just how “helpless” we are.

United, we are not helpless. We are a powerful force for change. Join us.