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Sen. Ericksen, Republican officials hold town hall to discuss gun violence, climate change and health care

By Meredith Karbowski

Hot topics were discussed at a Republican town hall meeting led by state Sen. Doug Ericksen and Reps. Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven in Blaine on Saturday, Feb. 17.

After a brief overview of property tax changes, the meeting was opened up for attendees to ask questions about local government.

After the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, many residents were curious about local legislators’ opinion on gun control. One attendee asked about easy access to assault weapons in Washington.

“We don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem,” Van Werven said.

The statement was met with both applause in approval and angry jeers from attendees.

Van Werven told the audience that assault weapons are illegal in Washington, and said that the state has increased the capital budget for funding for mental health services.

However, according to Senate Bill 5050, the sale of assault weapons is currently legal in Washington. The bill, and its companion bill HB 1134, look to implement a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, but are currently in committee.

Although no firm plan has been made yet to address gun control, Van Werven said she wants to put armed officers in schools in Washington, which elicited another mixed reaction from attendees.

“Is that your only plan to stop school shootings?” one Blaine resident said.

The resident mentioned that there was an armed resource officer in Florida.

“There’s a common thread we’ve seen in school shootings in the past few years, and it has to do with mental health issues and violent video games,” Van Werven said. “As a society, these are things we really need to handle head on.”

The discussion of gun control was ended when one attendee spoke in support of it and said she wants lawmakers to consider the safety of youth in Washington.

“Do you value the rights of people to carry these weapons of mass destruction more than you value the lives of young people?” she said.

One Blaine resident asked what Buys, who serves on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, plans to do to stop global warming and climate change.

Buys said the main issue is carbon emissions.

“The No. 1 thing we can do is manage our forests,” Buys said. “Every year for the last three years we’ve had some of the worst forest fires; it’s not because of climate change, it’s because we have not managed our forests.”

Buys said by making forests and communities in Washington more resilient, the state will eliminate more carbon emissions than Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed carbon tax.

Brandi Edwards, a nurse in Blaine, asked all three how they felt about accessible healthcare for all.

Ericksen said he is a believer in health savings accounts and thinks single payer healthcare is a step backward.

“Health savings accounts empower people to make their own decisions about their healthcare,” Ericksen said. “I think [single payer] is a bad system for us here in Washington state.”

In October 2017, Ericksen led a town hall meeting at Western that members of the Young Democrats of Western attended to debate Ericksen about his views on abortion and climate change, which he believes is not caused by humans, despite this being backed by a majority of scientists.

Despite angry outbursts during the gun control discussion, most who attended Saturday’s meeting agreed with the statements made by Ericksen, Buys and Van Werven.


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