County won’t change gun law

EVERETT — A move that would have brought Snohomish County in line with Washington state laws that allow concealed firearms at county parks was rejected by the County Council on Wednesday.

Republican County Councilman John Koster was disappointed that his proposal didn’t win any support from his four Democratic colleagues. The lack of action, he said, left the county with “a code that’s essentially been repealed by the state.”

“I supposed when it comes to guns, it gets a little politically dicey,” Koster said.

The county’s 1971 law prohibits guns in county parks. But the state in the 1980s passed a law that prevented local governments from banning people who have concealed-weapons permits from possessing guns in public parks.

Other local governments, including Monroe recently, have tailored their laws to match the state’s, with little fanfare.

Koster’s motion for a vote was met with silence by the other four members of the council.

Some of those in the audience supporting Koster’s proposal responded with shouts of “idiots” and “cowards.”

Wayne Wessels, a father of four from Mukilteo, didn’t jeer the councilmen, but was discouraged at the outcome. He said he would feel better knowing that fellow park patrons would be allowed to lawfully carry concealed firearms.

“We have a good police department, they love to catch criminals,” Wessels said. “They get there as quick as they can, but it’s not always quick enough.”

Eleven people spoke at the hearing, with eight favoring the change and three opposing it.

“It gets down to the whole issue of the places where it’s appropriate and the places where it’s not,” said Cynthia Donaldson of Bothell, who said she supports the Second Amendment. “There are places where we just don’t need to bring them.”

County Councilman Mike Cooper said afterward it was better to keep the law as is.

“Whether it’s housekeeping or not, I feel quite strongly that we should not have guns in parks, just like we should not have guns in schools,” Cooper said.

If anything changes, it should happen at the state level so that Washington’s laws on bringing guns into parks are more like Snohomish County’s, Cooper said. He said he would bring up the issue when meeting with state legislators.

Local lawmakers also are watching what happens with legal challenges to the ban Seattle placed on guns at its parks in October. It applies in areas where signs are posted.

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels pushed for the city’s law after three people were shot by a Snohomish County man during the 2008 Northwest Folklife Festival.

The same month the Seattle ban took effect, the Second Amendment Foundation, the National Rifle Association and five people who use Seattle parks challenged it by filing a lawsuit in King County Superior Court.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

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