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Monday, December 17, 2012

Bruce Harrell: City of Seattle Could Run a State Initiative for Gun Control

Posted by on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM

I wish I had time to get into detail on this... but I don't. So below is the whole the press release from Bruce Harrell, chair of the Seattle City Council's public safety committee and a potential candidate for mayor, which considers the city running a statewide initiative to return gun-control authority to municipalities.

I guess my question isn't just if Washington State voters would approve this sort of law (I'm curious what polling says about ending state preemption on gun control), I'm curious how—logistically, financially, legally?—the city could file a PAC, collect the signatures, run a campaign, and run the ads in election season to pass the thing. It would an unusual role for municipal government, for sure.

To the press release:

Today, Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the Council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, announced that he is calling for a special committee to explore the option of filing a statewide Initiative to allow larger cities like Seattle to modify RCW 9.41.290. RCW 9.41.290 does not allow Seattle to regulate firearms in any meaningful way. The law states, “Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”

This Initiative, if passed, would allow Seattle to enact laws that would increase public safety in our neighborhoods, schools and businesses by 1) requiring mandatory gun safety training for concealed carry license permits, 2) requiring handgun trigger locks, 3) requiring gun safes, and 4) requiring gun data collection. Data shows a direct, negative correlation between the rate of gun deaths and states that ban assault weapons and require handgun trigger locks and safes.

The number of signatures required for a statewide initiative to put a gun safety measure on the ballot in 2013 is 241,153. The special working committee would include regional and statewide leaders, community leaders, attorneys, prosecutors, police officers, State Board of Health, King County Board of Health, youth organizations, universities and colleges, parent and education groups, and organizations like Washington CeaseFire.

The Council has stated our gun safety intentions in our last four state legislative agendas. We must re-strategize and we must take this to the people. President Obama said last night, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change…We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”

The Public Safety committee has been working in the past year with regional and community leaders on identifying stronger gun safety measures. The committee strongly supports Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s legislation that would increase penalties for those under 18 who illegally possess firearms. Currently, it takes five firearms convictions before a juvenile is sentenced to 15 weeks in juvenile rehabilitation. The committee also supports Senator Adam Kline’s bill to make it a gross misdemeanor for any parent to allow a child under the age of 12 to gain access to a firearm.

I acknowledge and support our regional leaders in the past that have worked extremely hard to enact stronger gun laws in the State Legislature. In 2009, the State Legislature passed House Bill 1498, which dealt with people who had been committed for mental illness and their ability to get a gun.

The 10-year Federal Assault Weapons ban was passed by Congress on September 13, 1994, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. However, the ban expired on September 13, 2004, as part of the law's sunset date and attempts to renew the bill has been unsuccessful, no bill has reached the floor for a vote. We must make changes both at the local and federal level.

If we are having an honest and real debate, Washington state has weak gun laws. No state law exists to prevent the sale of guns without background checks or the purchase of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity clips. The Brady Campaign, an organization to prevent gun violence, gives Washington state 15 points on a scale of 100 on our state’s gun safety laws. California is ranked number 1 with 81 points. We can and must do better.

Okay, folks, what do you think? Should the city try to run an initiative like this?


Comments (14) RSS

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ScrawnyKayaker 17
As a gun owner, this is the kind of proposal I'd like to see more of. No crazy ammo serialization, no cosmetic bans of one rifle while a functionally identical rifle is allowed due to trivial shit like flash-hiders or pistol grip forearms. Kudos to Harrell for actually appearing to have a grasp of the technicallties.

Will it affect mass shootings? No. Would it prevent a few accidental shootings? Yes.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 18, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Amnt 15
Attempts at local regulation might make some people feel better, but it won't make anyone safer. But yeah, let's put up signs saying "No guns!" at community centers to stop criminals.
Posted by Amnt on December 17, 2012 at 9:36 PM · Report this
No. The City should push as hard as it can for the success of Sen. Kohl-Welles to-be-dropped bill for gun control. I wish Harrell would not run for Mayor because he's going to be wasting his supporters' money, just as the City would waste money running an initiative.
Posted by sarah70 on December 17, 2012 at 9:25 PM · Report this
Pretty sure Chicago already had a go at this and their ban both failed and was overturned.

Last time I checked, the only way to cancel a constituional amendment is with another constitional amendment. I am looking at you Volstad Act.
Posted by Zander on December 17, 2012 at 8:56 PM · Report this
@2 But Marijuana is the exact opposite problem. Current law is too restrictive.

You can allow something in only a few small areas, but you cannot effectively ban something in only a few small areas.

Some of those things, like trigger locks, very well could prevent some accidental deaths, but a citywide assault weapon ban is pretty pointless when a ten mile drive gets you to some place you can buy one.
Posted by giffy on December 17, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
Go to all this effort just to allow cities to impose better gun controls, that would be inconsistent with most of the rest of the state? Why? Better to follow Tina's idea in this morning's Crosscut -- run a statewide initiative to impose statewide controls.
Posted by Citizen R on December 17, 2012 at 7:45 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 9
I would like to see a total ban on all firearms, but basic wikipedia legal scholarship suggests that the Supreme Court has already decided this in McDonald vs. Chicago (which extended District of Columbia vs. Heller to states and municipalities). In Heller, DC's handgun ban and trigger lock were specifically found to violate the individual right to gun ownership that five justices found lurking in the Second Amendment.
Posted by Josh Bis on December 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM · Report this
Gordon Werner 8
I like what they are saying in that press release. It is quite clear that the objective is for gun safety ... and the things it mentions requiring gun owners in Seattle to do are things that MOST responsible gun owners already do, or really should if they truly are what they claim (responsible).
Posted by Gordon Werner on December 17, 2012 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Let's see if we can finally wring something out of the legislature first.
Posted by digitalwitch on December 17, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
Steven Bradford 5
Yes. We have to start somewhere.
Posted by Steven Bradford on December 17, 2012 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 4
Local's a terrible option, but it's sure to pass and we could expand from there.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on December 17, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
meanie 3
Civics fail.

The preemption rule exists to prevent bureaucratic inconsistencies in ordinance within the state, and likely to keep challenges at a minimum. Any rule that would go against the state Constitution would be struck down in court.

The state Constitution is more specific than the federal on the matter:

SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

Posted by meanie on December 17, 2012 at 5:07 PM · Report this
John Scott Tynes 2
Tell that to marijuana reform.

We have to start somewhere. Frankly, I think we could win a statewide gun-control initiative. We know Seattle can outvote the rest of the state.
Posted by John Scott Tynes on December 17, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 1
piecemeal, city by city or state by state isn't going to cut it. it isn't cutting it now.

federal or it'll be ineffective.
Posted by Max Solomon on December 17, 2012 at 4:59 PM · Report this

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