April 3, Rep. Derek Kilmer — representing Washington’s 6th congressional district in Washington D.C. — visited UW Tacoma’s campus for a town hall with students in Carwein Auditorium.
Kilmer also hosted town halls later in the week at Olympic College in Bremerton and Peninsula College in Port Angeles.
He came to campus amidst increased student activism surrounding gun control across the nation, ignited with the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The weeks before the town hall at UWT saw the March For Our Lives protests across the country — including in Seattle and Tacoma — and student walkouts in the Puget Sound region.
Kilmer expressed frustration with Congress’s recent inaction on issues he sees as important to solving gun violence.
“There are a number of things that Congress ought to do that don’t violate someone’s Second Amendment Constitutional right … that actually might make a difference in keeping people safe,” Kilmer said.
While he praised the fact that the recent federal budget finally allows the Center for Disease Control to study national gun violence as a threat to public health, the congressman also explained other areas he would like to see change. Among these were universal background checks, banning those on the terrorist no-fly list from buying weapons and banning bump stocks — the latter being an issue President Trump has shown support for.
Kilmer also did not shy away from discussing banning military-style weapons — a crucial demand of the March for Our Lives movement. Describing them as “weapons that were made for mass carnage on the battlefield,” he said, “I believe that [they] don’t have a place in our schools or on our streets.”
He also related to the issue as a parent hearing about his daughter participating in an active shooter drill at school.
“To me, we shouldn’t just accept these shootings as a fact of life,” Kilmer said. “I will never get used to this.”
Kilmer also answered students’ questions covering a variety of current issues including DACA, student debt and trade.
Kilmer explained how he had met with DACA Dreamers in Tacoma this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day and how their personal stories had impacted him.
“I support DACA, I support the Dreamers and I support actually broader comprehensive immigration reform,” Kilmer said.
The congressman also said that the public should continue to push for action on DACA and that this issue is “begging for bipartisan action.”
In regard to education and student debt, Kilmer shared statistics that show that more education leads to higher earnings and lower risk of unemployment — re-affirming his commitment to financial aid and federal work study and apprenticeship programs. Telling attendees about his own experience relying on financial aid in college, Kilmer said, “Financial aid is a big priority for me.”
With recent news of an impending trade war between the U.S. and China, Kilmer explained, “We have a lot to lose in Washington State to a trade war.” Many of Washington’s important industries — including fruit, wine, technology and planes — could be hurt in a trade war.
“To me, the smarter approach is not to get into a tariff war where everybody loses but rather to have a more targeted and strategic approach,” Kilmer said.