Council committee moves forward new Seattle gun control bill

SEATTLE — Gun control issues generally raise passionate voices from all sides. But there was little debate when a council committee moved forward on safe storage legislation Wednesday, bringing it a step closer to a full council vote and becoming law.

RELATED: Mayor Durkan proposes firearm storage legislation

“I’m somewhat regularly surprised at the ability for us to take action on an issue of such significance, without a whole lot of fanfare,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson. “… I don’t want folks to mistake that relatively small fanfare for anything other than how sensible these actions are, and moreover how critical they are to public safety. I think this is a momentous date.”

Wednesday morning's meeting for the council's Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee was relatively brief. The committee with Johnson and Councilmember Lorena González passed the gun control measure forward for full council consideration.

Aside from a few clarifying statements about amendments, little was said. Public comment included a couple supportive statements from Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. González noted that little or no opposition to the gun control effort has shown up at public meetings.

“This legislation is a modest action requiring gun owners to safely store their firearms so they don’t get into the hands of our children. Responsible gun owners already lock up their firearms. This legislation identifies resources and educational tools to encourage more gun owners to do the same for one purpose – to prevent the loss of lives,” González said.

Seattle gun control bill

The safe storage effort started in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. It is currently working itself through the council for full approval and is expected to be up for council vote in the next few weeks.

“The level of gun violence in our communities is just not normal,” Durkan said. “While we can’t prevent every gun tragedy, we can act to save lives. 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.”

Two bills are actually featured in the legislation — one that deals with safe storage and reporting stolen weapons; and another modifying fines for failure to report a stolen firearm. Under the proposal, gun owners could be fined $500 if a firearm is not stored properly; $1,000 if an at-risk or prohibited person obtains their firearm; and up to $10,000 if such a person, or a minor, uses their gun to commit a crime, injure or kill someone.

The bill primarily proposes a requirement that all gun owners store their weapons in a locked container and are rendered unusable to anyone other than the owner. In the legislation, it's considered a "prima facie evidence of negligence" if a gun owner's firearm is taken and used in a crime, to injure or kill someone. That means it will automatically be considered in court that they are negligent.

Amendments to the bill primarily shift monitoring duties from the Seattle Police Department to the city auditor. The previous version required the police chief to monitor compliance with the safe storage requirement. Instead, the auditor will team up with SPD and Public Health Seattle-King County to develop statistics on gun violence and deaths over the next five years.

Read more about Durkan's gun control proposal here.