Mayor Durkan Transmits New Legislation to City Council to Reduce Gun Violence in Seattle

New Action on Gun Violence Increases Civil Penalties and Legal Responsibility for Individuals Who Fail to Safely Store Their Firearms

Seattle (May 24) – Following the release of a new University of Washington study showing that nearly two in three gun-owning households in Washington State do not safely store their firearms and ahead of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 1, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced the transmission of legislation to the City Council that requires safe storage of firearms unless carried by or under the control of an owner or lawfully authorized user. This legislation also increases civil penalties and legal responsibility for failure to report unsecured firearms that are lost, stolen, or improperly used by an unauthorized user.

The new legislation was developed in collaboration with Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) and based on input from stakeholders including gun owners, safety advocates, community members, public health experts, and others. The legislation will be considered by the City Council in the coming weeks.

“The level of gun violence in our communities is not normal, and we can never think it is inevitable. 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,” said Mayor Durkan. “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. Requiring that gun owners safely store their guns can help make our communities safer places to live.”

Nearly 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds each year. In 2015, an estimated 150,000 adults in King County reported storing a firearm unlocked. In Seattle, 250 stolen guns were reported in 2017, according to the Seattle Police Department.

“Seattle is proud to be a city taking tangible action on reducing gun violence by requiring gun owners to responsibly and safely store their firearms when those guns are not in their possession,” said Councilmember González. “Last week, in findings published in the American Journal of Public Health, it was reported that 63 percent of households in Washington State with a firearm in the home do not store their firearms locked and unloaded. That same report tells us once again that minimizing a person’s access to a firearm via safe-storage practices in firearm-owning households makes a difference in suicide-risk behaviors. 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. I look forward to championing this common-sense, public health approach through my Public Safety committee in the coming weeks.”

In 2013, Seattle became the first American city to fund and conduct research into gun violence as a public health issue, gun violence prevention, and gun safety. The City Council-funded research led to a report from The Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center that established that safe storage of guns decreased the risk of accidental firearm injuries and suicides by 73 percent.

“Gun violence prevention has never been more important,” said Interim Chief of Police Carmen Best. “The evidence is clear: Safe storage can prevent tragic loss of life and help keep our communities safe. Ensuring firearms are safely stored is the responsibility of every gun owner, and a necessity. I am proud to be a part of a city that supports common sense gun laws, and to join our elected officials in taking action.”

In 2015, the City Council passed legislation to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales to fund gun violence prevention research. By the end of 2018, with nearly $200,000 in revenue from this tax, the City will have invested a total of $750,000 in Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center’s work to help individuals with firearm injuries.

“Thoughts and prayers must be accompanied by action,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “Curbing unauthorized access to firearms is an essential element of responsible gun ownership and preventing future tragedies. It was a privilege to partner with Mayor Durkan and Councilmember González in developing this legislation, and my office will continue to provide counsel as City Council considers this proposal.”

The legislation will take effect 180 days after the Mayor signs it into law. This allows for rulemaking, education and awareness efforts, and individual compliance. The Chief of Police will be given one year from the legislation’s signing to conduct a survey on initial levels of compliance. The legislation also instructs the City Auditor to assess periodically the legislation’s impacts on gun injuries and deaths in Seattle.

“We can, must, and will take every possible action to prevent gun violence in our community, and that includes promoting safe storage of firearms,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “If Congress and the Legislature are unable or unwilling to pass legislation that will save lives, then we will continue to lead at the local level.”

“We know that if everybody stored their firearms safely, we could drastically reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” said Public Health – Seattle & King County Director Patty Hayes. “Our partners in law enforcement and retail endorse safe storage practices, which many firearm owners already follow. This legislation will help ensure all Seattle residents are taking this important step toward family and community safety.”

Through the LOK-IT-UP program, Public Health – Seattle & King County will continue to work with law enforcement and private retailers to provide discounts on and encourage the use of lockboxes and other safe storage equipment. For information about our public education materials and retail discounts, visit www.lokitup.org.

The legislation as transmitted can be found here.

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