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What does ‘safe storage’ mean under Seattle’s new gun regulation?

(File, Associated Press)

Seattle’s recently-approved safe storage regulation now requires gun owners to secure their firearms so they do not fall into the wrong hands.

RELATED: Study indicates majority of Washington gun owners do not safely store firearms

But what does safe storage mean? Can it simply be locked inside a home? Does it need a trigger lock? Do gun owners have to buy a safe? Or can they simply hide their weapons under a bed?

According to the ordinance unanimously approved by the Seattle City Council on July 9, safe storage is about more than how the weapon is kept.

The new rules state that a gun is to be secured in a “locked container,” but it also considers that a gun is stored properly if it is “under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user.” In other words, if a person is legally carrying their firearm, that is considered safely stored.

A “locked container” is defined as any storage device that meets rules set by the chief of police. What exactly those rules will be — a gun safe, etc. — are not yet known. What is known is that a trigger lock is not enough.

The ordinance states:

It shall be a civil infraction for any person to store or keep any firearm in any premises unless such weapon is secured in a locked container, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inaccessible or unusable to any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user. Notwithstanding the foregoing, for purposes of this Section 10.79.020, such weapon shall be deemed lawfully stored or lawfully kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user.

A memo prepared by city staff points specifically to gun safes as a container. The memo notes that the requirement may impose an added cost for some Seattle residents who will need to purchase a container to lock their weapon inside. It explains this away by saying that some hospitals have gun locker giveaways. The city wants to encourage more giveaways and find more low-cost options.

Other terms in Seattle’s safe storage law

Lawfully authorized user: Any person who is not in unlawful possession of a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.040; they are not prohibited from possessing a gun under any state or federal law; has permission from the gun owner to use the weapon.

At-risk person: A person who has made statements or exhibited behavior that indicates to a reasonable person there is a likelihood that the person is at risk of attempting suicide or causing physical harm to oneself or others.

Prohibited person: Someone who is not a lawfully authorized user.

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