The new gun-free zone window decal (click to enlarge).
As a crowd of confused regulars attempted to eat their breakfasts at Oddfellows Cafe in peace this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn and Ralph Fascitelli, the board president of Washington State CeaseFire, unveiled a new program aimed at encouraging businesses to ban guns from their premises.
The city's tried—and failed—to ban guns on public property like parks, which McGinn brought up today. "As you know, [the City of Seattle] can't even do this in our own facilities," he said, alluding to last year's state supreme court decision affirming that state laws on gun rights preempt any local laws and specifically prohibit cities from passing their own stricter gun restrictions in public spaces.
But private businesses are different, explained Fascitelli. "The law allows private businesses to decide whether or not they allow guns." Businesses can have rules against guns "just like they wouldn't allow someone with no shirt or shoes." This program entails signing a pledge with Washington CeaseFire, then receiving a window decal that declares your business a Gun Free Zone (at right). If a patron carries a gun, an establishment asks them to leave, and they refuse, they're breaking criminal trespass laws and business owners are encouraged to call police. This includes people with state concealed pistol licenses, but not federal, state, or local law enforcement.
Fascitelli repeatedly evoked the "culture war" over guns, saying "the other side" has a "misguided vision" about guns in society, and that when it comes to stricter gun-control measures, "the numbers are on our side"—87 percent of Washington State residents support background checks, he said, citing a recent CeaseFire study. When pressed on the financial side of this partnership, McGinn said he didn't think city funds were spent on this program—other than perhaps a few people's time spent organizing it. This is more of a city-supported CeaseFire program.
Mike Meckling, co-owner of Neumos and Barboza, stands with Mayor Mike McGinn
The list of participating businesses (scroll down) is already long, with a lot of representation from Capitol Hill (Elliott Bay Books, Lost Lake, Neumos, Oddfellows), as well as, notably, Cafe Racer. Neumos/Barboza co-owner Mike Meckling spoke as well, saying this program was "good for safety, good for our customers, and good for employees." He also mentioned, when I talked to him later, that Neumos has had a no-gun policy "since the beginning," so "we already enforce that." Have they really had to enforce it? "Absolutely," says Meckling. They have pat-downs at the door on certain nights, and when someone's carrying, they're politely turned away. Does that ever spark further confrontation? "It never escalates," he says, adding that they actually try hard to "deescalate" those situations and that they don't run into problems.
So what's the purpose of the shiny new decals, if businesses that want to keep guns out are already doing it? "I think it's a useful approach," says Betsy Connolly, the director of operations for a nearby business. She calls it "a grassroots approach" and likens it to a neighborhood watch, saying that it engages business owners in helping each other set standards that make the whole neighborhood safer. If lots of businesses in a neighborhood publicize their unfriendly attitude toward guns, it could make it less appealing for people packing heat to go there. It's a way to say "this neighborhood doesn't tolerate that," says Connolly.