Nickels expects December start to city gun ban
Last updated November 21, 2008 9:50 p.m. PT
By LEVI PULKKINEN
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels expects to introduce a city rule change in December that would ban all guns from city buildings and parks, despite objections from state officials and gun-rights advocates.
A public hearing on the proposed city gun restrictions will be held at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at City Hall. Written comments can be submitted at seattle.gov/firearmsrule
City staff released a draft of the proposed change to reporters Friday, which shows a change in line with statements Nickels made following a nonfatal shooting at the Northwest Folklife Festival in May.
The administrative change, which would not come to a City Council vote, would ban concealed weapons from city-owned property. Roads, sidewalks and most parking areas would not be included.
In October, the state Attorney General's Office issued an opinion asserting the mayor's proposed restrictions would violate state law blocking cities from enacting gun rules. The move also caught the attention of gun-rights advocates, who see it as an attempt by Nickels to pave the way for additional prohibitions.
Regina LaBelle, legal counsel to the mayor, said the city believes it already has the legal authority to enforce the restriction, which could result in criminal trespass citations for those who repeatedly violate the rule. Still, she said, the city will be asking the Legislature to "clarify" state law during the next legislative session.
"There are a lot of other cities around the state that have demonstrated a desire for their safety in parks and buildings," LaBelle said. The rule, added, "is about trying to reduce the number of guns in circulation."
In addition to the restriction, Nickels intends to formalize restrictions already in place on gun possession at large city-permitted events. For several months, city leasing agents have required that event organizers agree to prohibit gun-toting partygoers from entering, even if the event is on a city street.
The mayor's efforts have already drawn complaints from gun-rights groups, including the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.
Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said attorneys for the group have filed a letter with the city objecting to the move. A lawsuit would likely have to wait until the city takes action.
Contrary to the mayor's view, Gottlieb said state law clearly prohibits cities from pre-empting state gun law. Allowing cities to do so, he said, would create a morass of confusing regulations.
"The mayor is beating his chest trying to make a statement that he's anti-gun," Gottlieb said. "The mayor and violent criminals in this case have something in common this time -- neither of them have any respect for the law."
Washington Ceasefire President Ralph Fascitelli disagreed, asserting, as the city has, that a 2006 state Supreme Court decision shows that cities can regulate gun carrying when the city is acting as a landlord.
"We think (Nickels) has done the best job possible, and we're excited that he's willing to put his neck on the line for this. This is a common sense law that can really protect people."
Nickels has become something of a rising star in the gun-control movement, having joined in several initiatives through the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition and organized a 2007 statewide summit on gun violence. In May, he was recognized as Washington Ceasefire's civic leader of the year.
P-I reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or email@example.com
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