Councilmember Harrell calls for Special Committee to explore a statewide Gun Safety Ballot Initiative

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City of Seattle FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12/17/2012

Councilmember Bruce A. Harrell

Councilmember Harrell calls for Special Committee to explore a statewide Gun Safety Ballot Initiative

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with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”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. The Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee will discuss this new strategy on reasonable gun regulations at committee on Wednesday, December 19, 2 p.m., in Council Chambers.

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