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AUGUST 4, 1997

Local News

guns Joe Lee (foreground), father of 14-year-old Isaac Lee who was accidentally killed by a friend with a pistol several weeks ago, attended a meeting last week where gun safety issues were discussed.

Andrew Walgamott/Staff Photo

Legislators seek ideas after shooting death

  by A.T. Walgamott
   State leaders held a meeting at the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse last week to hear ideas on gun safety following the accidental shooting death of 14-year-old Isaac Lee of Redmond July 17.
   Bringing the community and local agencies together, the meeting was co-sponsored by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Woodinville and Sen. Ida Ballasiotes R-Mercer Island, who asked for ideas and solutions from those in attendance.
   "[We're looking for] common sense solutions without the heavy hand of government," Rep. Bill Backlund, R-Redmond said.
   The meeting focused on how to deal with guns rather than degenerating into a 'guns are good, guns are bad' discussion. As Bothell Police Chief Mark Ericks noted, the fact that "guns are in homes and available to children is a reality."
   Some suggested bringing Eddie Eagle gun safety education programs to schools. The program teaches children that when they see a gun they should stop, leave the area and tell an adult. Fritz Sands, father of three, said there was no reason kids should be unsure about guns. "Why aren't they taught that one is safe? It really isn't rocket science," Sands said.
   Isaac Lee was accidentally shot in the head by a 13-year-old Bothell boy after the two had been playing with a .22-caliber revolver July 15 in Redmond. Isaac died two days later. Isaac's father, Joe, was at the meeting. Joe, a hunter, had taught his sons, Isaac and Justin, gun safety.
   Scott Wieland pointed out that while your own kids may be knowledgeable about guns, other people's children may not. Also suggested was rearranging the hours students attend school. Pam Eakes of Mothers Against Violence in America said the solution was keeping kids busy. Bruce Mulvey, executive director of Northshore Youth and Family Services, said he was seeing a slow degeneration of families. He noted the Thursday night programs at Bothell High School, including stained glass workshops, that were bringing some families together again.
   Community involvement drew support. Eric Barnum, Northshore School District Director of Student Services and Athletics, expressed concern when prominent issues arose and then were turned into "unfunded mandates."
   "A 'program' won't solve the problem," Barnum said, calling for a community approach.
   Sen. McAauliffe noted several problems affecting youth and perception of guns, including media violence, the influence of gang activity and idle hours. She said the solution lay in a combination of gun safety courses and community action.
   But was anything really accomplished at the meeting?
   "We're ready to be a partner with law enforcement and the Legislature to do our part to keep kids safe," Barnum said. "This will probably be a springboard for more meetings and more discussions."
   Joe Lee called for an "underground parent network" to watch kids. "Let's not just look at the gun issue. Let's look at what we can do to keep our neighborhoods safe," he said. His wife and Isaac's mom, Gwen Lee, concurred, saying it would take a community effort to lick the problem.