Seattle will require gun owners to lock up their firearms, after the City Council voted unanimously Monday to pass legislation proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Starting 180 days after Durkan signs the legislation, it will be a civil infraction to store a gun without the firearm being secured in a locked container.
The legislation will apply only to guns kept somewhere, rather than those carried by or under the control of their owners.
Also under the legislation, it will be a civil infraction when an owner knows or should know that a minor, “at-risk person” or unauthorized user is likely to access a gun and such a person actually does access the weapon.
The legislation allows fines up to $500 when a gun isn’t locked up, up to $1,000 when a prohibited person accesses a firearm and up to $10,000 when a prohibited person uses the weapon to hurt someone or commit a crime.
“While we can’t prevent every gun death or injury, we can take steps to help prevent future tragedies,” Durkan said in a statement. “Requiring that gun owners responsibly store their guns can help make our communities safer places to live.”
Taking into consideration the possibility of a mass shooting, the council tweaked the legislation Monday to allow gun owners to be fined separately for each person injured or killed.
In addition to allowing fines, the legislation will pave the way for lawsuits. The infractions will be considered initial evidence of negligence in civil court matters.
A state law says Washington cities can’t regulate guns, blocking Seattle from taking a bolder step, such as banning semi-automatic firearms.
But in March, amid a surge in gun-safety activism led by students and others across the country, Durkan and Councilmember M. Lorena González said they would take action by requiring that firearms be safely stored.
They introduced the legislation in May, saying it would reduce the chances of stolen guns entering the black market, accidental shootings by children and suicides by young people.
“Each of us has the responsibility as adults to keep our kids safe,” Rev. Andrew Conley-Holcom, a West Seattle pastor, told the council before Monday’s vote.
Only 36 percent of gun owners in Washington state keep their firearms locked and unloaded, according to a study highlighted by the council, and at least 250 guns were stolen in Seattle last year, according to the police.
More than 700 people died in Washington in 2015 from gun injuries, according to the state, and 78 percent of firearms deaths in Washington from 2010 to 2017 were suicides, according to an analysis by The Spokesman-Review.
The Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Bear Arms has yet to decide whether to sue Seattle over the city’s new legislation, spokesman Dave Workman said Monday.
Police officers will have the authority to write gun-storage infractions based on seeing or having reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred.
The recipient of an infraction notice will have 18 days to contest it in Seattle Municipal Court and will be able to appeal rulings from there to state Superior Court.
The legislation says the police chief will draw up rules about what containers will count as adequate and says the city auditor will provide annual reports about gun safety in Seattle.
Delaying enforcement for 180 days will allow time for public education and outreach, according to the council. The legislation will not apply to antique firearms.
Also Monday, the Seattle council passed legislation that will increase the maximum fine for gun owners who fail to timely report lost or stolen firearms, from $500 to $1,000.
Edmonds will soon consider gun-storage legislation modeled on Seattle’s, The Daily Herald reported Monday.
Last week, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility submitted signatures needed to qualify a firearms-regulations initiative for the November ballot. Initiative 1639 would raise the purchase age to 21 for people buying semi-automatic weapons
The initiative also would make it a crime, in certain circumstances, for gun owners to allow access to their weapons by people prohibited from possessing firearms.
Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. that generally requires all guns to be locked up when not in use, while California, Connecticut and New York require firearms to be securely stored around people who can’t legally possess them, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
There were 88 shootings in Seattle last year, killing 18 people, according to police.
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