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More Washington cities consider safe gun storage regulations

Edmonds Council President Mike Nelson presents his safe gun storage proposal to the city council July 17, 2018. (City of Edmonds)

Communities not far from Seattle are now considering their own safe gun storage regulations after the Emerald City passed its own.

“I would rather be spending my time debating signs and locations of city buildings and not have to talk about firearms,” said Edmonds Council President Mike Nelson at the council’s Tuesday meeting. “I never thought when I took this job that this was something I would be doing. I also didn’t think I’d have to hear from my six-year-old, beaming with pride, that he now knows how to properly barricade himself from an armed gunman.”

“My personal focus on this is what we can do to protect our kids,” he said.

RELATED: What does safe storage mean under Seattle’s new regulation?

Nelson, a gun owner himself, has proposed a safe gun storage ordinance for Edmonds. It echoes Seattle’s recently-passed regulation, aiming to get owners to lock up their guns. It differs from Seattle’s rule, however, by allowing the use of trigger locks.

  • Gun owners could be fined up to $500 for not safely storing their firearms.
  • If a child or prohibited person gets access to their gun, the fine goes up to $1,000.
  • If a child or prohibited person harms another or commits a crime with the gun, the fine goes up to $10,000.

Money raised from the fines will be used to pay for trigger locks, which the city would hand out to owners for free. Nelson notes the fines are recommended, but judges will have discretion, offering owners other penalty options. He said the primary goal of the ordinance is gun owner education.

Safe gun storage

Nelson cites a recent study out of the University of Washington that found most gun owners in the state do not safely store their firearms; leaving them to be easily obtained by others.

“There’s something wrong in our society that for our children, now, it’s standard practice to be adequately trained for gunmen coming into their schools,” Nelson said. “There is something we are failing. We are clearly not seeing action at the federal level, we are not seeing action at the state level, and we are relying citizens, apparently, to go forward with initiatives. There are things that should be happening that are not happening. Which leaves the question: Is there something that we as a city can do? Is there something we can do to protect the health and safety of our citizens? Is there something that is simple and that is fair?”

The ordinance will now go through a public process before coming up for final approval, possibly by the end of July.

Edmonds already has a regulation penalizing gun owners for failing to report lost or stolen firearms.

The effort just north of Seattle comes as Mayor Jenny Durkan signs her safe gun storage proposal into law on July 18.

“To the young people who continue to raise their voices and march throughout the country demanding action, Seattle is listening. We’re taking an important step towards safer schools and communities. Our children should not live in fear, waiting for the next mass shooting,” Mayor Durkan said. “Safe storage is a common-sense and easy way to save lives and keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands. Our state and federal leaders should follow our lead and enact this common-sense measure now.”

Mukilteo’s gun safety resolution

Edmonds is not alone in its goal to address gun violence. On Monday, Mukilteo passed a resolution supporting local, state and federal efforts to prevent gun violence. These efforts include universal background checks for firearm sales, restricting magazine sizes, and raising the age to purchase some firearms to 21.

Mukilteo’s resolution does not impose any gun control regulations. Washington state law prevents cities from imposing more severe firearm restrictions than state law. This is why many cities have approached the issue from a health perspective. Through its resolution, Mukilteo commits to handing out free gun locks, and to start a gun buy-back program.

RELATED: Mukilteo shooter says he wishes he was never sold a gun

Communities surrounding Seattle are well-aware of the issue. A teenage shooter gunned down other teens at a party in Mukilteo in July 2016. He used a recently-purchased firearm similar to an AR-15 rifle. Later that year, in an unrelated incident, a shooter walked through the Cascade Mall in Burlington, killing five people with a rifle.

In 2014, a 15-year-old freshmen at Marysville-Pilchuck High School shot five students before turning the gun on himself. The gun used in the incident was owned by the teen shooter’s father, who had illegally purchased it.

Washington’s experience with tragic shootings touch multiple aspects of the gun control debate from mental illness to safe storage. There was also the 2017 shooting at Freeman High School near Spokane; 2012 shooting at Seattle’s Café Racer; 2009 Lakewood shooting; 2008 Skagit County shooting spree; 2006 Capitol Hill massacre; 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting; and the 2005 Tacoma Mall shooting, among others.

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