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Under threat of suit, Mill Creek ends gun ban in parks

Threatened with a lawsuit, the city pulls a decade-old ordinance that barred guns in public parks.

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By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer
Mill Creek has repealed a decade-old ban on guns in city parks, quietly joining a number of cities and counties moving to erase the prohibition from its books since it had been found illegal.
With little discussion, City Council members wiped away the prohibition last month. No residents spoke in favor or against repealing the law, which hadn't been enforced since a judge in 2009 decided Seattle's ban on firearms in parks was invalid.
Mill Creek's leaders acted at the urging of their city attorney who received a letter from one of the gun rights groups in the Seattle legal challenge, raising the specter of legal action, should the city not remove it.
Mill Creek Mayor Mike Todd said Monday they had no choice once the issue reached them.
"My first reaction was, 'Why would we want to allow guns in our parks?' But my personal feelings don't really come into play here," he said. "We want to be in line with state law."
The city's decision drew praise from Alan Gottlieb, the leader of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, which sent the letter to Mill Creek several months ago.
"We're very, very happy they removed it without having to go to court to litigate," Gottlieb said. "It is in the interests of their taxpayers and the gun owners in the city."
Mill Creek is among the cities and counties, including Snohomish County that axed the provision from their laws as Seattle kept losing rounds in its legal fight to keep guns out of its parks and community centers. That legal brawl ended in 2012 when the state Supreme Court refused to hear Seattle's appeal of two lower court decisions.
Three years ago the Snohomish County Council ended its ban, which had been in place since 1971. But it didn't come easy either.
Republican Councilman John Koster tried to get rid of the unenforceable firearms prohibition in January 2010 but couldn't get support from Democrats who held the other four council seats. They changed their votes by April of that year.
Six months ago the Oak Harbor City Council lifted the ban in a very heated political environment.
Media reports at the time suggest there were council members resistant to the change who buckled under the threat of a lawsuit. It took two meetings for the council to hash it out, and both meetings drew hundreds of people, including some carrying their legal weapons.
Mill Creek isn't going to be the last community Gottlieb's group targets.
There are about 25 cities and counties in the state with this ban written into their ordinances, and some may not realize it until the organization informs the community's leaders, he said. Everett doesn't have a ban on guns in city parks.
"Hopefully we don't have to sue them, all but if we do have to we will," he said.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;
Story tags » Mill CreekOak HarborLaws

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