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Mayor Durkan proposes new Seattle gun control legislation

(File, Associated Press)

Mayor Jenny Durkan is proposing new Seattle gun control legislation to tighten regulations around safe storage of firearms. It will also penalize gun owners who fail to report lost or stolen guns, or if their firearms are misused by an “unauthorized user.”

“The level of gun violence in our communities is not normal, and we can never think it is inevitable,” Mayor Durkan said. “We – and especially our children – should not have to live like this. With Congress in the grip of the D.C. gun lobby and too many state legislatures failing to act, our cities must lead the way – and we must all continue to demand action that saves lives.”

RELATED: Most Washington gun owners do not safely store firearms

The proposal is being sent to the city council for consideration. It requires that guns are safely stored while not under the control of the owner or lawfully authorized user. It will also increase civil penalties for failure to report a firearm that is lost or stolen, or is improperly used. Violation of the regulations will result in a civil infraction. The proposal states:

  • Safe storage: Guns should be stored in a locked container, and rendered as unusable to any person other than the owner or authorized user.
  • Unauthorized access prevention: It will be a civil infraction if a minor, at-risk, or prohibited person obtains a firearm when the owner should have reasonably known they would have access to it.
  • Violation of the safe-storage law, or the unauthorized access regulation could result in a fine between $500 and $1,000.
  • If a prohibited or at-risk person, or a minor obtains a firearm and uses it to commit a crime, injure or kill someone (including themselves), the gun owner could be fined up to $10,000.
  • If a civil case results from a minor, at-risk, or prohibited person accessing a gun, it will be “prima facie evidence” — meaning fact unless proven otherwise — that the owner is negligent.
  • The new gun law will go into effect 180 days after it passes and Mayor Durkan signs it.
  • The chief of police will have one year to conduct a survey to determine levels of compliance.
  • The city auditor will monitor the law’s influence on gun injuries and deaths in Seattle.

The legislation was drafted in partnership with Councilmember Lorena González.

“Simply put: If more gun owners lock up their firearms, it will reduce accidental firearm injuries and deaths, help prevent youth suicide, and reduce access to guns among youth who have no legal right to purchase firearms,” González said. “I look forward to championing this common-sense, public health approach through my public safety committee in the coming weeks.”

The mayor’s office says that it was developed after speaking with gun owners, safety advocates, and community members.

“The roots of gun violence are complex, but we know that unsecured, unsafely stored guns help fuel this crisis of violence because they are more likely to cause tragic accidents, fall into the wrong hands, or be used in suicides,” Durkan said. “Requiring that gun owners safely store their guns can help make our communities safer places to live.”

Seattle gun control

The proposal comes about three years after the last Seattle gun control measure — a gun tax. Seattle implemented a $25 fee on each firearm sold in the city. It also imposed a 5 cent per round tax. The council estimated the city would take in between $300,000 and $500,000 in gun-tax revenue. That money was slated for gun-violence prevention programs.

But gun stores reacted by dropping firearm sales, referring customers to their out-of-Seattle locations, or just simply moving out of town. Seattle has been largely silent on how much gun tax revenue it has received. According to Mayor Durkan’s office, by the end of 2018, the city will have taken in $200,000 — far less than the lower estimate of $300,000 annually.

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