EDMONDS — Gun owners in this city could soon face fines if they fail to keep their firearms locked up and inaccessible to others, especially children.
Mike Nelson, president of the Edmonds City Council, said he will propose a new city law requiring owners to safely store their guns.
Those weapons should also be “rendered unusable” to anyone other than the owner or those they’ve authorized to use it, he said. The law is not expected to apply to firearms carried by or under the control of owners.
If anyone not permitted to use the gun, including a minor child, gets access to the weapon then the gun owner could be held civilly liable and fined between $500 and $1,000. If an unauthorized person uses the firearm to commit a crime or injure themselves or others, the gun owner could be fined up to $10,000.
Any fines collected by the city would be spent to buy lock boxes and give them out to residents, he said.
Nelson is a gun owner and the father of two young children. He keeps the weapons locked up and thinks all gun owners should do the same. The proposed ordinance could be brought to the council as early as July 17, he said.
“I want to show the public there are gun owners out there that support responsible gun ownership and safety,” he said in an interview. “There are people out there who think this is a reasonable thing.”
The language is modeled on an ordinance under consideration in Seattle, he said. Everett also is mulling something similar.
If approved, Nelson said he envisioned a 180-day grace period in which the city could carry out a lot of public education.
When he announced his plans at a news conference July 3, he brought two of his lock boxes and demonstrated how quickly they can be opened. Opponents of safe storage requirements argue that the few moments needed to unlock a box could cost a gun owner or others around them their lives.
Nelson’s proposal comes as a statewide initiative dealing with firearms moved a step closer to getting on the November ballot. Signatures were turned in July 6 for Initiative 1639.
The proposed Initiative 1639 would make a number of changes in state law including a provision holding gun owners criminally liable if another person accesses an unsafely stored firearm to hurt themselves or someone else.
An Edmonds code “will complement what they are trying to do,” Nelson said. “Our citizens are asking us to act now. I am not going to wait to see if they can get something passed.”
One of the leaders of the group pushing the initiative agreed.
The broader goal is fomenting change in behavior, said Renee Hopkins, chief executive officer of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
“Having laws at the local level that require, encourage and incentivize safe storage will help with that,” she said.
Edmonds City Councilwoman Adrienne Fraley-Monillas also backs the proposal.
“Who knows how the votes will land,” she said. “If it doesn’t pass at least Edmonds will have some sort of protection for the children.”