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Seattle gives businesses the option of being ‘gun free zones’

Businesses will be able to opt into the program by signing the pledge to participate, and placing a "Gun Free Zone" decal in their window. Leonard Meuse, left, briefly smiles while he serves customers at Cafe Racer in Seattle. The scene of several fatal shootings, Cafe Racer is among those signing up to be a "Gun Free Zone." (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

State law allows gun owners to carry weapons into businesses, but Seattle’s mayor and Washington CeaseFire have come up with a plan for establishments to become “Gun Free Zones.”

“What we’re trying to do here today is address the culture of gun violence,” said Ralph Fascitelli, board president of Washington CeaseFire. “This is something businesses can do to be on the front lines of preventing gun violence.”

The gun-control group came up with the idea and approached Mayor Mike McGinn about three months ago.

Under the plan unveiled Monday at a news conference at a Capitol Hill restaurant, businesses will be able to opt into the program by signing the pledge to participate, and placing a “Gun Free Zone” decal in their window.

Fascitelli admits it won’t stop a determined gunman from bringing a gun into a business, such as Seattle’s Cafe Racer where a shooter opened fire last year. But he says it’s an important step in what he calls an ongoing culture war.

“What this will prevent is somebody who has a gun, then gets into an argument, then gets emotional and distraught and an argument turns into a funeral,” Fascitelli said.

“These businesses are saying ‘we don’t want guns in our establishment,'” said McGinn. “The police department regularly enforces trespass laws when a visitor to a business violates that business’ rules. We will continue to do so, and I thank these businesses for standing up for the safety of their customers.”

Dozens of businesses, including Neumos, Oddfellows, Elliott Bay Books, Cupcake Royale and Café Racer have already signed up to participate.

“It’s our right as a business owner to establish those responsible rights of entry,” said Mike Meckling, co-owner of Neumos and several other Capitol Hill businesses. “It’s to make sure that people that are visiting our neighborhood want to continually come here and feel comfortable.”

Washington CeaseFire links to King County statistics, which show gun violence claims more than 31,000 lives every year in the U.S. and in King County more people die every year from gun violence than from motor vehicle collisions.

They also claim between 2007 and 2011, the estimated annual cost of firearms deaths and hospitalizations in King County was $177 million.

“It’s wishful thinking at best. It’s sort of a symbolic move that may be good for a headline, but it’s really not going to accomplish much,” Dave Workman tells KING 5 News.

Workman is a former NRA board member and spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

“The mayor and the folks at Ceasefire appear determined to create an atmosphere of bigotry against firearms owners who really haven’t hurt anybody,” he says.

“I think there is substance here when the people of Seattle and these business owners express what they believe in,” countered McGinn. The mayor argued it’s just one more tool in helping ultimately, to change a culture of gun ownership and violence, citing a number of other city initiatives.

“It adds up. We’ve seen changes in behavior around smoking, we’ve seen changes in behavior around drunk driving. We need to see changes in behavior around gun ownership and use, which can make a difference,” McGinn said.

While it’s legal under state law to carry a gun with the proper permit, business owners participating in the program will ask gun owners to leave the premises. If they don’t, police will be called and the gun owner potentially charged with criminal trespass.

Meckling said it’s both his right and responsibility as a business owner to join the effort.

“It’s good for safety, it’s good for our customers, it’s good for our employees for peace of mind. This action clearly sparks a conversation as far as our values as a neighborhood and as a city.”

David Boze: Seattle mayor encourages businesses to shun law-abiding citizens

By LINDA THOMAS’s Josh Kerns contributed to this report.

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