From the Columbia Basin Herald

On April 2, the governor signed into law a bill that will establish the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention under the Department of Commerce, tasked with collecting and sharing gun violence data in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and researchers to promote strategies to reduce gun violence in Washington.

Spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Kyle Foreman, said it is not yet clear exactly how the office will operate in coordination with law enforcement, and said the specifics likely will not be known until the office is established in June.

Senate Bill 6288 came down to a close 25 to 24 Senate vote to seal its passage in March.

Many Republican senators expressed concerns that the office would be used as a gun-regulation advocacy agency.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said that is not what this program is about. She said the office will provide the potential to gather demographic information and other kinds of data to learn about what kinds of populations are at risk of gun violence and how they can be helped.

Dhingra said the office will also provide grant funding to community-based initiatives working to prevent gun violence, as well as programs that benefit the victims and witnesses of gun violence.

Senate minority leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he felt the bill was biased and said he was concerned the newly created bureaucratic office would be filled with people advocating for gun regulation.

Schoesler said he was never lobbied by any law enforcement agencies or prosecutors in favor of this legislation, indicating to him that it was an unnecessary expenditure.

“Most of the information is already readily available,” Schoesler said about the data the agency is intended to collect.

When asked whether Grant County Sheriff’s Office needed access to certain kinds of data it does not already have, Foreman said more data will always be beneficial and that everyone could benefit from data sharing.

Foreman said departments could also be helped by the grant funding the office will offer. He said while it is not exactly clear how the office will work, it does seem to have the potential to do good things in the effort to reduce gun violence.

By Cameron Sheppard