Harrell wants local control over gun policy. He will need more than luck. – Tagline

Taking bets: Will Harrell get local control over gun policy before Sawant gets local control over rent hikes? City of Seattle

As gun violence soars in Seattle, at a press conference last week, Mayor Bruce Harrell said he wants to repeal the law that keeps municipalities at the mercy of the state over politics. on firearms.

Although he said this year he would lead efforts to try to get preemption relief, the mayor obviously cannot change the statute in question, RCW 9.41.290, on his own. And lawmakers with the power to do so aren’t very lucky either.


It’s been a long time

Almost 40 years ago, the last time the state had a Republican governor, the Legislative Assembly passed a invoice which put total control of gun policy in the hands of the state, which tied the hands of the cities.

Since then, the state’s monopoly on gun policy has caused frustration for Seattle leaders. The Second Amendment Association and the National Rifle Association sued the city in 2018, when former mayor Jenny Durkan ruled the city should require gun owners to store guns safely, arguing that the legislation violated state preemption. Before that, in 2010, a judge shot down a ruler ban guns in Seattle parks for the same reason.

If the state ever lifts the ban on municipal gun control, Harrell’s spokesman said the mayor would pursue proposals he’s suggested in the past, such as laws banning guns on city ​​properties – including in parks and community centers – and laws prohibiting people under the influence from carrying a firearm.


Repealing the state’s preemption law, which has enjoyed relative peace from Democratic majorities over the years, would be a huge undertaking. Even Harrell’s office said it would be “a heavy burden” during a short session in the mayor’s first year.

“This RCW is like any fucking gun-related thing,” said State Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-West Seattle), who works on gun control legislation in the Senate. “It would be quite drastic. Yes [Harrell] wants to talk about it: First of all, good. He should be interested in that, but it would be very difficult.

“Crazy-tough” is right. The most recent attempt to empower localities to control their own gun policy was introduced in January last year. Proposal, House Bill 1313, sponsored by Rep. David Hackney (D-Tukwila), did not budge. He wasn’t even heard. Lawmakers reintroduced the same bill earlier this year, but it still hasn’t moved. HB 1313 co-sponsor Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), who has worked on the issue since being elected, said a bill to repeal state preemption was heard once in over the past six years.

How Harrell could help

Although Harrell can’t vote on state legislation, lawmakers said the mayor could help in other ways.

The first thing he might do would be to make a lot of noise about the HB 1313 or similar future bills. This year, for example, the legislature is pushing Senate Bill 5078, which would ban high-capacity magazines statewide. This bill owes some of its recent success to the Attorney General, who requested it.

In a phone interview, Macri said she was glad the mayor was publicly on board with HB 1313 and encouraged more local leaders to build momentum for policy change.

Nguyen said Harrell could also help his case by making clear what he wanted to do with the power to regulate guns. Macri agreed, saying “fantastic opposition” remained one of the main pitfalls for politicians seeking to change gun regulations. Giving cities the keys to gun reform seems nebulous, and critics take the opportunity to imagine worst-case scenarios.

Harrell’s mere mention of toying with state preemption sparked a strongly worded press release from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Committee chairman Alan Gottlieb suggested Harrell “recharge his brain before he shoots himself.”

In the press release, Gottlieb laid out the typical conservative argument: If every city has power over guns, then we’d end up with what he called a “checkerboard” of conflicting regulations.

Macri is used to this criticism, and she said it was nonsense.

“There are different speed limits in Seattle compared to other municipalities, and there are all kinds of regulations that are governed by local ordinance,” Macri said. “We should trust those members of the community who are closest to what is happening on the ground.”

Nguyen said an effective workaround to avoid such criticism is to name specific gun issues to hand over to localities. This session, for example, says Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) is sponsor an invoice to give municipalities the power to regulate open carry in public spaces, a bill supported by Harrell, according to an email from his office.

For now, Mayor Harrell “will continue to be committed to supporting the restoration of local authority and to working with lawmakers and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to move this effort forward,” according to an email from his office. . He won’t come up with a policy at this time, as Nguyen suggested.

What else needs to happen to stop gun violence

Whether or not the mayor succeeds in overthrowing the seemingly immovable RCW, lawmakers and advocates agree there is still work to be done. At all levels of government, it will take a comprehensive public health approach to reduce firearm injuries and deaths, according to a spokesperson for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. That’s really where Harrell’s power in the fight against gun violence lies.

A spokesperson for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility suggested the mayor invest in community violence response programs, implement existing gun laws and, most importantly, address the root causes of armed violence.

“New laws won’t stop gun violence, ‘tough on crime’ has never stopped the spread of violence. If it did, we wouldn’t be in the situation we find ourselves in today “said Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180, a youth diversion program. “If we really want to change the dynamics of the community, if we really want to start stopping the spread of this disease of violence, then we have to change the material condition in which people live.”

For Goode, part of that solution includes paid jobs in Seattle and funding for more youth mentoring.

At Friday’s press conference, Harrell also talked about other ways to stop gun violence. He said he wanted to collect data and find out “who’s pulling the trigger” and figure out what trauma or learned behavior the city might help address.

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