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Gun Privileges vs Racial Justice in Renton

On September 15th, 2020, the Renton Police Department announced a new method to get a concealed carry pistol license under the rules of COVID-19. This announcement came from a single public comment at the City Council meeting on August 3rd where a resident noted he was unable to apply under the state health mandates. The comment was a rather quiet note in a battle over racial justice that has been taking place in the city, but it speaks to a level of prioritization in the administration.

At this meeting, racial justice activists continued to use the public comment to advocate for police reforms, budget prioritization, and noting issues they’ve personally had with the city. It was on the same day a vote was to be held on a resolution to end structural racism and business plan changes the city prepared in the wake of these protests. The mayor remarked that the city should wait until the council retreat next year to continue conversations on equity and justice, focusing on the city’s business plan changes and resolution for now and moving onto other topics later.

The juxtaposition of these issues demonstrates a level of racial disparity in public policy at the local level. On one hand, the mayor and some of the council would like the city to delay racial justice (an issue centered on Black communities) because the pandemic burdening the city, and on the other hand in under a month they worked around the pandemic to find a solution for concealed carry (an issue centered on White communities), and it couldn’t be more clear that this was happening in the same meeting. A single public comment has the city turn around in under a month for gun privileges, but months of racial justice activism has only amounted to some word changes (so far), and a promise for more potential next year, likely when some of the momentum protestors have has dwindled.

The difference in treatment comes with an additional story happening nationally about armed extremists. Renton has an issue with vigilantes intimidating racial justice protesters and LGBTQ+ Pride events. Calls for police reforms, for tracking vigilante and hate group activity have largely amounted to no announced changes yet. Yet, when a single person calls in for gun privileges, the city comes up with an immediate response. This disparity in governance highlights the changes that communities across the country are taking to the streets for.

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