Two weeks ago during a “town hall” event at Chief Sealth International High School, Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city was looking at laws to help prevent violence involving guns. Today, she and two other citywide elected officials announced what they’re working on – here’s the news release:
Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and Councilmember M. Lorena González announced that they will be developing legislation within the next month to address gun violence in Seattle. Following outreach and engagement with stakeholders including gun owners, safety advocates, community members, public health experts and others, this legislation will require safe storage of firearms and increase civil penalties and legal responsibility for not reporting lost or stolen firearms, which is required within 24 hours.
“We should not pretend for one second that the level of carnage in our country from guns is inevitable. We cannot allow it to become the new normal,” said Mayor Durkan. “Unsecured, unsafely stored firearms are more likely to be stolen, used in a suicide, accessed by children and teens and unintentionally fired.”
Across the country, nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. In 2015, an estimated 150,000 adults in King County reported keeping a firearm unlocked. In Seattle, 250 stolen guns were reported from burglaries and car prowls in 2017 according to Seattle Police Department.
“We’re taking seriously the call to action from youth and their families to address gun violence in our schools, our communities, and within our own homes,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Citywide, Position 9). “More than 40 percent of King County adults with guns in or around their home said they left them unlocked. This legislation is about public safety. Our proposal to require gunowners to safely store their firearms will prevent children from accessing guns, and will reduce firearm injuries, accidental deaths and suicides among our youth. Simply put: this strategy will help us create a safer community.”
“Gun violence and mass shootings are a plague on our society, and for too long our federal and state governments have failed to enact common sense measures to promote gun safety. I support, and am prepared to defend, Seattle taking steps to move forward at the local level,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
In 2015, the Seattle City Council passed legislation to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales to fund gun violence prevention research. Although the City Council continued funding gun violence prevention work at Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, the revenue was initially blocked due to ongoing litigation. With the tax upheld by the State Supreme Court, this proposal will invest 2018 revenue and future gun and ammo tax revenues in Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center’s work to help individuals with firearm injuries.
In 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to conduct basic research on gun safety. The City Council-funded research led to a report from The Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center that established that “gun violence begets gun violence.” The research found that individuals hospitalized for a firearm injury were 30 times more likely to be re-hospitalized for another firearm injury than people admitted to the hospital for non-firearm related injuries.
In addition, the City of Seattle and Seattle Police Department launched a new site, seattle.gov/ERPO, to ensure all Seattle residents can easily complete an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO). An ERPO was designed to give family, household members, and law enforcement a way to petition the court to restrict the access and ability for a person with health crisis issues to purchase or possess firearms. In Seattle, 18 ERPOs have been petitioned by law enforcement with 37 weapons recovered.
“From Columbine to Newtown to Parkland, we are constantly reminded that Extreme Risk Protection Orders are more important than ever. These protection orders won’t prevent every act of gun violence, but we know they are already making a difference,” said Seattle Interim Police Chief Carmen Best.
Councilmember González, a West Seattle resident re-elected last year to a citywide council seat, chairs the committee that would consider new laws, the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee.