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King County's Zahilay on preventing gun violence and stopping hate

King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay speaks at Franklin High School in Seattle in February 2020.
Courtesy of King County
King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay speaks at Franklin High School in Seattle in February 2020.

The King County Council is spending $2 million for gun violence prevention. The recently approved money creates a grant program and comes from a larger $94 million pool of funds for COVID-19 relief measures. 

County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay pushed to have the money set aside. He represents King County’s District 2, which runs along the western shore of Lake Washington, from Skyway up through Seattle’s University District.

Zahilay says the program will create a pot of money for organizations already working to prevent gun violence and will help them get extra resources the organizations say they sorely need.

He spoke about it with KNKX’s Ed Ronco. Listen to the full conversation above.


On the connection between COVID-19 relief money and gun violence prevention: “We can ask the prosecutor’s office, we can ask the police department, we can ask all of the people who have their hands on dealing with homicides and violence how COVID-19 is related to violence. But the connection is clear: When you have a pandemic that is uprooting people’s lives, increasing anxiety and isolation, closing down facilities and other outlets where people usually deal with their stress in a better way, when you have massive job loss and unemployment and poverty going up, violence is going to go up too. It’s a clear connection, and the data shows us that as well.”

On anti-Asian violence and hate: “We have a country that treats Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners, and we need to denounce that forcefully. We need to make sure that everybody knows that Asian Americans [and] Pacific Islanders are welcome in this region, and we need to keep them safe. We need to all do our part to report incidents of hate, and we need to make sure that Asian hate is part of the larger conversation around eliminating racial bias and stigmatization.

On the future: “I don’t see us getting better on the current trajectory. Things, if we don’t make big changes, are going to get a lot worse. If you’re rich and powerful in this city, in Seattle, in King County, you’re going to continue getting more rich and more powerful based on our current regulatory and tax framework. If you’re poor and low wage and working class based on our current regulatory and tax framework, life is about to get a lot harder for you. And the symptoms of that … of homelessness and increased crime and racial disparities … those are going to keep getting bigger. We have a lot more fundamental change to fight for. … Equity is not just in the interest of people who are struggling."

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.