Mayor Greg Nickels is going forward with a controversial executive order which would ban "dangerous weapons" - including firearms - on Seattle owned parks and>"/>
Mayor Greg Nickels is going forward with a controversial executive order which would ban "dangerous weapons" - including firearms - on Seattle owned parks and properties. An exact date has not been set yet for when the ban will go into effect. However, a spokesman for the Mayor's office said the ban is currently expected to begin sometime in May.
Coincidentally, this places the time somewhere around the one-year anniversary of the freak shooting incident at Folklife, last year, that left two people injured and was the casus belli for the order.
The move also comes in spite of legal concerns questioning whether the city can unilaterally prohibit firearms owners, particularly those possessing Concealed Pistol Licenses, from exercising their legal rights.
Since announcing his intentions to eliminate the possession of firearms on city-owned properties, Nickels' gun ban has slipped in and out of the shadows of public attention. Carefully worded media releases and televised press conferences are followed by a hail of invective aimed at City Hall from local and national talk show hosts, political bloggers, pundits and defenders of the Second Amendment.
On Dec. 15, months after the initial furor over the ban had died down, and after most political experts had concluded the weapons ban was a dead end, the City held a public meeting to solicit input from the public after Mayor Nickels had surprisingly reiterated his intent to proceed.
The meeting was attended by several department heads of the City but not the Mayor.
Over 150 citizens showed up, most of whom were opposed to the ban. And far from being the stereotypical gathering of right wing out-of-towners that the city tried to portray the crowd as, at least half or more were Seattleites and many of them were self-described liberals, women or sexual minorities.
The State Attorney General's Office has repeatedly warned the City that Nickels was treading on a legally hazardous path with the executive order, citing the concept of pre-emption. When informed, last week, of the Mayor's plans to move forward, Attorney General Rob McKenna's office released this statement.
"Our office's opinion clearly states that state law pre-empts a city's authority to enact local laws that prohibit the possession of firearms on city property or in city-owned facilities. Moving forward with the firearms rule could subject the city to legal challenges from private citizens."
The Mayor's office has its own legal interpretation stemming from a variety of city firearms ordinances across Washington and also a State Supreme Court ruling allowing the City of Sequim to prohibit a gun show on city property.
Whether the Mayor or AG is correct, when the executive order goes into effect, it is likely the courts will have a say. However, there was one final venue where the conflict over interpreting pre-emption might have been bypassed.
The State Legislature this session could have stepped forward with a bill that would clarify the issue and officially negate any remaining legal difficulties.
According to the Mayor's spokesman, Alex Fryer, the odds of that legislation being passed look slim at the moment. Chatting with him, last week, Fryer said the city has so many more pressing issues facing it in Olympia, such as obtaining funding for the Viaduct Tunnel and Mercer Mess, that its lobbyists don't have the time to press for additional favors.
What was unsaid was the lobbyists haven't been able to press legislators for a favor as politically explosive as gun control. At any rate, legislation from Olympia or no, it looks like Mayor Nickels is moving forward with the ban.