Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Seattle parks gun ban shot down again

by October 31st, 2011

A gun ban approved by Seattle for city parks and other city recreation facilities has been rejected again in court, this time by a three-judge state appeals court panel. The court was hearing an appeal of a earlier decision, reported by The Seattle Times in February 2010 when a King County Superior Court judge first disallowed the city’s ban. Today’s ruling authored by Judge Ann Schindler says only the state legislature has the power to authorize whether or not cities can enact a gun ban in parks, and the lawmakers haven’t permitted that yet.

In sum, we hold that RCW 9.41.290 preempts the Firearms Rule. Except as expressly authorized by the legislature, municipalities are prohibited from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the public. Whether to amend RCW 9.41.300 to prohibit possession of firearms at city-owned parks and park facilities frequented by children and youth is a question for the legislature to decide.

The city parks gun prohibition, instituted in late 2009 at the urging of outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels after a shooting at the 2008 Folklife festival and other shootings at parks properties, was challenged by gun rights groups including the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, on behalf of gun rights proponents including co-plaintiffs Winnie Chan, a Washington Department of Corrections employee, and West Seattle resident Ray Carter, founder of the Seattle chapter of the gay and lesbian gun rights group Pink Pistols.

In a phone interview this afternoon Carter said he was pleased by the ruling and hoped the City of Seattle would put pragmatism over pursuit of a “philosophical holy grail” by avoiding what he says would be a fruitless appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said he feels strongly about his right to legally bear arms in city parks because “there is no magic barrier” making them a crime-free zone. A private citizen could be threatened with violence and potentially loss of life “in Victor Steinbrueck Park, Pioneer Square, Lincoln Park or walking out of the Rainier Community Center at high noon,” Carter said. Carter, who formerly worked at an electric car dealership, now is employed as a fundraiser for the Second Amendment Foundation.

Kimberly Mills, communications director for Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes, said Holmes’ office is analyzing the ruling and will be briefing Mayor Mike McGinn and the Parks and Recreation Department before any decision is made on appealing to the state’s high court.

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