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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council approves local gun control, expanding on state law


The Spokane City Council enacted new gun control laws Monday, restricting open carry in public facilities, broadening where it is illegal to discharge a firearm and clarifying that weapons seized by police should be destroyed.

The ordinance, spearheaded by Councilman Paul Dillon, was approved 5-2, with Councilman Jonathan Bingle and Michael Cathcart arguing that the bill did little to improve public safety, was in some cases redundant with state law and unreasonably restricted law-abiding gun owners.

In a Monday interview, Dillon argued that the “Gun Violence Prevention for a Safer Spokane” ordinance helped clarify local rules and restrictions, allowing local venues, law enforcement and prosecutors to better regulate firearms.

The proposal approved by council Monday prohibits anyone from bringing a firearm or other weapons into a public venue, such as community centers and the Spokane Arena, except the concealed carrying of a firearm by someone with a valid concealed pistol license. Many venues like the arena independently ban guests from bringing weapons inside.

The rules, which still need the signature of Mayor Lisa Brown to be finalized, prohibit open carry of guns in a public building used for Spokane city government to conduct its meetings. State law already prohibited open carrying in City Hall and other municipal buildings, however.

The ordinance also bans anyone other than law enforcement officers from discharging a firearm anywhere in the city, whether on public or private property, except at a firing range or in order to defend oneself or others. State law already prohibited discharging a firearm in public, but not necessarily on private property.

Finally, the law makes it clear that firearms and ammunition forfeited to the police department shall be either retained for use by the police department or destroyed if they are no longer needed for evidence, prohibiting the auctioning of weapons.

“This is a step in the right direction for keeping employees and citizens safer,” Dillon said at Monday’s council meeting.

Cathcart praised Dillon’s “passion” for reducing gun violence, but argued that local government’s attention would be better turned to investing in the criminal justice system and jail capacity. He pointed to the case of Richard S. Smith, an 18-year-old released from custody pending trial after being accused of shooting a man outside a 7-Eleven in February, and who then allegedly assaulted an 83-year-old man in May.

“If we want to truly get a handle on this, there’s a lot of things obviously we can do,” Cathcart said. “But I think primarily it’s in the hands of our justice system.”

Dillon agreed that the local criminal justice system had significant flaws, but argued that a clear local law would make it easier for city police and county prosecutors to charge and secure convictions for those who use guns unsafely in the community.

Bingle believed that the law is “an affront to people’s rights to defend themselves,” noting that he concealed carries and believes that restricting the ability for citizens to arm themselves will endanger the public. He further argued that a person openly carrying a firearm posed less risk.

“You know what’s more dangerous than a gun you can see?” he asked rhetorically during the meeting. “A gun you can’t see.”

Councilwoman Kitty Klitzke argued that open-carried weapons in public venues are intimidating, noting that her 11-year-old daughter, who has had to undergo active shooter drills at her school, has felt unsafe in the presence of guns.

“There have been several occasions where she has seen someone open-carrying, and her body language and her ability to enjoy the situation completely changes,” Klitzke said.