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As Part of New Law to Protect Communities from Gun Violence, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best Announce New Rules for What Qualifies as Responsibly Storing Guns in Seattle

Seattle (September 13) – As part of Seattle’s new law to protect communities from gun violence, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best today announced new guidelines for what qualifies as responsibly storing guns in Seattle, including defining a lawful “locked container.” The proposed rules are available here, and all interested persons are invited to submit comments to the Seattle Police Department by October 15, 2018. The legislation will take effect on February 13, 2019.

“We are taking another step to save lives. Unsecured, unsafely stored firearms are more likely to be stolen, used in a suicide, accessed by children and teens and result in tragic accidents. Responsible storage is a commonsense way to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands,” said Mayor Durkan.

The new guidelines were required under the legislation that Mayor Durkan signed into law in July, which requires the responsible storage of firearms and increasing civil penalties and legal responsibility for failing to report unsecured firearms that are lost, stolen, or improperly used by an unauthorized user. The law called for a 60-day rulemaking period for the Chief of Police to establish these new guidelines for what constitutes a “locked container,” including acceptable safes, gun safes, gun cabinets, and lock boxes.

“In more than 26 years of service with our city, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of gun violence on individuals, families and communities,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. “These guidelines provide our community with necessary standards on responsible storage, which can prevent tragic loss of life. I fully support this legislation.”

“As Chair of the Council’s public safety committee, I’ve heard first-hand about the ways in which lock boxes are proven effective at helping to avoid accidental shootings and preventing suicide,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, City Wide). “I want to thank Mayor Durkan and Chief Best for establishing rules that strike a balance between homeowner gun safety, while simultaneously ensuring that the boxes themselves are protecting our city’s most vulnerable residents and preventing these firearms from getting in the wrong hands.”

These are very reasonable, well-considered rules that anyone who claims to believe in responsible gun ownership should support.  No one is requiring that you acquire a bank vault,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “Protecting children and the vulnerable is the right thing to do.”

In King County, 150,000 gun owners reported leaving their firearms unlocked in their homes. In Seattle, according to the Seattle Police Department, while more than 3,100 firearms were taken into custody between 2015 and 2017, only 250 guns were reported stolen in 2017.

The Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC) found that the responsible storage of guns decreased the risk of accidental firearm injuries and suicides to youth by 73 percent, and that number is further reduced to 78 percent when both guns and ammunition are locked up.

In addition to the commonsense rules, the Seattle Police Department has researched standard industry specifications, including standards adopted by the State of California, Department of Justice and the roster of firearm safety devices certified for sale in California; the State of New York Codes, Rules and Regulations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and guidance from the State of Texas Department of Public Safety, Regulatory Services Division.”

The new rules establish a lawful “locked container” as a safe, gun safe, gun case, gun cabinet, or lock box that:

  1. Is designed to fully contain firearms and prevent removal of, and access to, the enclosed firearm;
  2. Is capable of repeated use;
  3. May be opened only by a numerical combination of at least three variables entered in a specific sequence on a keypad, dial, or tumbler device; key, magnetic key, or electronic key; or by biometric identification; and
  4. May be constructed so that it may not be easily pried open, removed, or otherwise defeated by the use of common tools.

As part of the King County Gun Violence Prevention Initiative the City and County continue to take a public health approach to reducing gun violence. The “LOK-IT-UP” enterprise is part of their partnership which promotes responsible storage and offers discounts to purchase responsible storage devices.

The legislation will take effect on February 13, 2019, which allows for education and awareness efforts, and individual compliance.

To protect communities, the penalties established by the measure fall under three categories:

  • Basic requirement to store: Up to $500 fine (or community service) for failure by any person to store or keep any firearm in any premises in a locked container.
  • Accessed by prohibited person: Up to $1,000 fine (or community service) if the firearm is obtained by youth, prohibited purchaser or an “at-risk person” (expressing suicidal or harmful ideation).
  • Harm done by prohibited person: Up to $10,000 fine per victim if prohibited person uses the firearm to injure, kill, or commit a crime.

In days following City Council’s unanimous passage of Mayor Durkan’s commonsense legislation which will help protect Seattle’s communities, the City was cited in a lawsuit to repeal the law. Everytown for Gun Safety announced that Everytown’s Litigation Team, along with Orrick LLP, will represent the City of Seattle on a pro bono basis against this and any resulting litigation.