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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: City appeals court ruling on gun ban

12/1/2011  9:00:00 AM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

Because an appeals court misread earlier holdings of the Washington Supreme Court, the City on Wednesday asked the state’s highest court to reverse a ruling that struck down Seattle’s ban on guns in areas of parks, community centers and other facilities where children are likely to be present.

Attorneys for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which represents the City on a pro bono basis, told the Supreme Court -- in a petition seeking review from Division 1 of the Washington Court of Appeals -- that Seattle was seeking a second look not only on behalf of its residents but for all forms of local governments in the state that want authority over their own properties.

"The [appeals court] 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," the attorneys wrote. “This petition asks the Court to decide a question of significant interest to many Washington citizens—whether the State’s intent to fully occupy the field of firearms regulation abrogates the prerogatives of local governments throughout Washington to set conditions for the safe and secure use by visitors of parks properties that the local governments own.”

“Seattle did not attempt to ban firearms for all City property,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes, “just parks and playgrounds frequented by families with children. 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. Every Washingtonian should be alarmed that state law has been interpreted to prevent such reasonable common-sense local controls.”

The Oct. 31 appeals court ruling said that, except as expressly authorized by the Legislature, municipalities are prohibited from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the public. The three-judge court upheld a ruling by a King County Superior Court judge, who initially heard the case brought by six people with concealed weapons permits who were individually turned away from City parks for carrying firearms after the ban went into effect in 2008 under then Mayor Greg Nickels.

The City’s petition also stated that the Legislature’s preemption statute was intended to eliminate conflicting municipal criminal codes and to advance uniformity in criminal firearms regulation while Seattle’s ban includes no criminal penalty.

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