Editorial: Gun locks and new city ordianances wins for safety

Free gun locks and two simple firearms ordinances are needed steps for safety in Everett.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Taken on their own, the initiatives might not be seen as great strides toward addressing gun violence and youth gangs, but they are necessary steps that will make a difference.

One program, “Lock It, Everett,” is offering free cable-style gun locks to encourage gun owners to secure their firearms and keep them falling into young hands where they can cause injury and death while making them less attractive to thieves. Two other efforts are proposed ordinances that will update the city regulations on discharge of a firearm in the city limits — taken verbatim from the state’s 1909 state law — and a second that will require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours.

All three are part of the larger call for a coordinated response to gangs and gun violence that Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin made in January at the start of her first term, the work on which continues. The police department recently selected two youth outreach programs intended to divert youths from gangs, detailed in a Sunday Herald report by Rikki King.

Along with keeping guns out of the hands of children, the locks also are intended to reduce exposure to theft and resulting illegal use, Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman told The Herald last week. The locks currently are available at the city’s north and south police precinct offices.

At least 140 firearms were reported stolen in thefts and burglaries in 2017, according to Everett Police Department figures, and another 27 firearms were recovered or seized that had not been reported as stolen or lost.

To address those losses to theft, the proposed ordinance would require gun owners to report the loss or theft of firearms within 24 hours. Although already part of department practice, the ordinance also requires the police department enter the guns’ identifying information into its records management system and into the National Crime Information Center’s database, Templeman told the city council Wednesday night.

Without that information, Templeman said, pawn shops and other gun dealers, who are required to hold onto firearms for 30 days before returning or selling them, can’t learn if a firearm has been stolen when they check the database.

Violation of the ordinance would be considered a civil infraction with a fine of up to $250.

The other ordinance would clarify a regulation most might have thought was already understood: that you can’t discharge a firearm, outside of certain exceptions, within city limits. The current city ordinance, Templeman told the council, is based on 1909 state statue, though it was updated in 1985. But its interpretation was open to question because it specified only discharge in public or where a person might be endangered.

Franklin said the need for the update was made clear earlier this year when an Everett man shot his TV and fired rounds into the ceiling of his home. No one was injured, but an officer’s review of the city statute didn’t make clear whether the man could be cited for illegal discharge of a firearm.

The proposed ordinance now makes that clear. It will be a misdemeanor to discharge a firearm anywhere in the city limits, allowing exceptions for those performing their official duties in law enforcement, security or the military and use of a recognized shooting range. The ordinance also updates aiming a firearm — loaded or not — at a person as a gross misdemeanor.

There’s more to be done to make the possession and use of firearms safer in our communities.

State Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline, made several attempts over the years to pass a state law that would have encouraged safe-storage of firearms by establishing penalties for leaving guns where children can get control of them and would have required firearms dealers to sell or provide gun locks or other safe storage options. Kagi is not running for re-election this year, so fellow legislators will need to take up leadership of that issue.

But the ordinances and the Lock It, Everett program — at a minimal cost — can encourage responsible gun owners to safely store their firearms, secure them from children and theft, ensure that law enforcement is made aware of lost and stolen guns and penalize those who aren’t using their guns responsibly.

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