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Monday, October 18, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ballard: Seeds Of Hope Planted For Tighter Gun-Control Laws

With shovels, spades and grocery bags filled with daffodil bulbs, more than 70 volunteers buried their pain - and seeds of hope.

A year after Yoshihiro "Yoshi" Hattori, 16, was killed on his way to a Halloween party in Baton Rouge, La., a Seattle-based community organization seized on that heavily reported event to highlight the need for strengthened gun-control measures.

The Washington Ceasefire group planted more than 10,000 donated white-and-yellow daffodil bulbs in the median along Eighth Avenue Northwest near Northwest 65th Street in Ballard yesterday as TV camera crews jockeyed for position and the automatic winders of still cameras whirred. "This is an expression of our hope for the future," said David Kinne, a Washington Ceasefire member.

News of the event - and its message - will be carried as far as Nagoya, Japan, Hattori's hometown. The exchange student was shot last year while looking for a Halloween party in Baton Rouge. He knocked on the wrong door and didn't understand the homeowner, who commanded him to "freeze." The homeowner was charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted by a jury.

Seattle Mayor Norm Rice said that when the daffodils bloom, they will give evidence that the love and compassion of a community can be as strong a force as a gun. Rev. Dean Koyama of the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple called for compassion, his breath forming little white puffs as he chanted sutras - the words of Buddha. The bell Koyama rang pierced through the crowd's quiet. Bright yellow artificial daffodils brightened the gray day and decorated a candlelight shrine to Yoshi.

Koyama issued a challenge by invoking the image of a lotus. Its roots are mired in muck, yet the lotus is able to transcend defilement and deliver a flawless bloom, high above the mud and murky waters, he said.

"The mud represents the world in which we live. The blossom represents the world of enlightenment," he said. Koyama said he hoped no more bulbs have to be planted in memory of gunshot victims.

Washington Ceasefire is attempting to rally community support for gun-control legislation in the next session of the Legislature.

But why latch onto Yoshi's death? Washington Ceasefire organizers didn't have to look that far for victims of handgun violence.

Darryl Roberson, 26, was killed in Seattle while sitting inside his car. No one's been charged in the Aug. 16 shooting, said his mother Linda Roberson, who with other families of gunshot victims participated in yesterday's event.

In addition to bulbs in Ballard, the Roberson family planted a private memorial - a weeping cherry and two azaleas - in their Central Area yard. Amy Ragan would have turned 18 Saturday, said her mother, Jenny Wieland. The Everett teenager was killed last November by a bully with a gun.

Cynthia Johnson, whose son was killed a year ago yesterday, wanted to express her anger in a healthy way. Her 15-year-old son, Richard Odd, was killed when a friend, showing his parents' guns, accidentally fired a shot. Johnson, of Enumclaw, is hoping to help mandate safer gun storage.

Each time Joanne Wallace hears a news account of a young person shot, she knows there is another parent going through the same agony that has gripped her since her son Gregg was shot by a 13-year-old in June 1992 in a SeaTac park. The family decorated a wooden marker in Ballard with a color photo of Gregg and 16 daffodils, the age the Federal Way youth would have been now.

Washington Ceasefire organizers said the day was for all victims, but said Hattori's death, in particular, was symbolic. "Because he was our guest. Because he was entrusted to us," said Gordon Taylor, Washington Ceasefire member.

The community group also got the international attention it was seeking. Tokyo Broadcasting System sent a camera crew from its Los Angeles bureau to cover the event. The Japanese network's journalists in New York and Washington, D.C., are producing stories and a correspondent in Japan is filing a story from Hattori's hometown. In the island nation of 120 million, shooting deaths are rare, said Tsuneo Osawa, Tokyo Broadcasting System's Los Angeles bureau chief. An estimated 60 people are killed each year in the country; in the first eight months of this year, Seattle has had 47 homicides.

"When young people are killed, so often, it's unbelievable to me," said Osawa, who fears the victims are too quickly forgotten. "But I don't want to forget. So we want to make a story."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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