Seattle asks state high court to review gun ban

  • Thu Dec 1st, 2011 2:14pm
  • News

By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle is asking the Washington Supreme Court to determine whether municipalities can ban people from carrying guns in local parks and community centers where children gather.

Seattle instituted its ban in 2009, after three people were injured in a shooting at the 2008 Folklife Festival. Several individuals with concealed weapons permits challenged the ban, and a King County Superior Court judge struck it down as pre-empted by state law governing firearms regulation.

That decision was unanimously upheld by a state appeals court Oct. 31.

In petitioning the high court to review the case, the city argues that the appeals and lower court got it wrong. Everyone in the state should be alarmed that state law has been interpreted to prohibit such reasonable gun restrictions, said City Attorney Pete Holmes.

“Seattle did not attempt to ban firearms for all City property, just parks and playgrounds frequented by families with children,” Holmes said in a written statement. “The notion that Seattle can’t protect their most vulnerable residents on the city’s own property is inimical to the principles of local autonomy.”

The Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation has said it is confident that the ban is unlawful. State law expressly forbids cities from adopting their own gun regulations, said Dave Workman, senior editor at Gun Week, a publication owned by the organization.

The city insists that state law merely prohibits municipalities from adopting their own criminal laws regarding firearms. In this case, the city’s lawyers insist, there are no criminal penalties for violating the gun ban, though people who refuse to honor it could be cited for trespassing if they refused to leave the park.

The firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe is representing the city for free. Its lawyers argue that the ban set reasonable conditions for the safe use of its recreational facilities — as the state Supreme Court permitted in a 2006 decision involving a gun show in the city of Sequim.

“The ruling in this case affects the authority of hundreds of county and municipal governments to set conditions for use of properties they own, in order to meet the needs and wishes of their citizens,” they wrote.

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge in Seattle ruled that the ban did not run afoul of federal law.

Workman said the ban isn’t just illegal, but ineffective. Anyone intent on shooting someone at a park isn’t going to be deterred by a city policy banning firearms, he argued.

“It’s not going to prevent some gang-banger or rapist or other kind of criminal from harming someone else in the park, and it’s never been clear why people who propose such bans think that it will,” he said. “You’re going after the wrong people.”