Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan was joined by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, Councilmember M. Lorena González, and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best as she signed her legislation requiring safe storage of firearms and increasing civil penalties and legal responsibility for failing to report unsecured firearms that are lost, stolen, or improperly used by an unauthorized user. Working closely with City Attorney Holmes and Councilmember González, her legislation was developed following extensive outreach and engagement with stakeholders including gun owners, safety advocates, community members, public health experts and others.
“To the young people who continue to raise their voices and march throughout the country demanding action, Seattle is listening. We’re taking an important step towards safer schools and communities. Our children should not live in fear, waiting for the next mass shooting,” said Mayor Durkan. “Safe storage is a common-sense and easy way to save lives and keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands. Our state and federal leaders should follow our lead and enact this common-sense measure now.”
Across the country, nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. In 2015, an estimated 150,000 adults in King County reported keeping a firearm unlocked, in their homes. In Seattle, 250 stolen guns were reported from burglaries and car prowls in 2017 according to Seattle Police Department.
The legislation will take effect on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, which allows for rulemaking, education and awareness efforts, and individual compliance. Over the next 60 days, the Seattle Police Department will begin to develop a set of rules to determine what qualifies as responsible storage.
Penalties for failing to safely store or for not reporting lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours after the loss or theft is discovered:
- Basic requirement to store: Up to $500 fine (or community service) for failure by any person to store or keep any firearm in any premises in a locked container.
- Accessed by prohibited person: Up to $1,000 fine (or community service) if the firearm is obtained by youth, prohibited purchaser or an “at-risk person” (expressing suicidal or harmful ideation).
- Harm done by prohibited person: Up to $10,000 fine per victim if prohibited person uses the firearm to injure, kill, or commit a crime.
In addition, the Chief of Police will be given one year from the legislation’s signing to conduct a survey on initial levels of compliance. The legislation also instructs the City Auditor to assess periodically the legislation’s impacts on gun injuries and deaths in Seattle.
Following the Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote passing the legislation, Everytown for Gun Safety announced that Everytown’s Litigation Team, along with Orrick LLP, will represent the City of Seattle on a pro bono basis in any resulting litigation.
“We must do all we can to reduce the risk of gun violence in our community. That’s why King County has long supported safe storage of firearms. And that’s why I commend Mayor Durkan and the City Council for their strong action,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Mayor Durkan will almost certainly be in for a fight, and I will stand with her, and all those who say to the NRA and those doing its bidding: Enough.”
“Today we add another item to our toolbox to keep people safe from gun violence. This is about prohibiting children, criminals, and people in the midst of a mental health crisis from accessing firearms,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “Like with any legislation involving firearm safety, however, it’s safe to assume this legislation will be challenged in court by the NRA or its allies. I’m thankful to have Everytown and Orrick LLP representing the City pro-bono if the legislation is ultimately challenged.”
“After several months of collaborative work, I am thrilled that Mayor Durkan has signed the Gun Storage Bill into law,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), “Soon after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, millions of people across the Country, including thousands in Seattle, came together and said enough is enough. This common-sense law will require that gun owners responsibly store their guns when those weapons are out of their immediate possession. We must do everything we can to prevent the loss of young lives to suicide or acts of violence as a result of a firearm falling into hands of an unintended person. I have no doubt this law will accomplish this goal,” González said.
“Every day, hundreds of police officers serve the people of Seattle in countless ways. Unfortunately, some of these encounters go beyond service and put lives at risk,” said Chief Carmen Best. “Common-sense gun laws are important and necessary in preventing tragic loss of life. Ensuring firearms are safely stored is the responsibility of every gun owner, and helps keep our communities safe.”
In 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to conduct basic research on gun safety. Led by Dr. Fred Rivara, MD, MPH of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC), this research established that safe storage reduces the risk of accidental firearm injuries and suicides to youth by 73 percent, and that number is further reduced to 78 percent when both guns and ammunition are locked up.
In 2015, the Seattle City Council passed legislation to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales to fund gun violence prevention research. By the end of 2018, with nearly $200,000 in revenue from this tax, the City will have invested a total of $750,000 in the HIPRC’s work to help individuals with firearm injuries.
“Proper storage of firearms is critical to reducing the risk of firearm injury and death, especially for youth,” said Dr. Rivara. “Research done at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center has shown us that safe storage clearly works, and this bill will help insure that safe storage is used.”
“We know that if everybody stored their firearms safely, we could drastically reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” said Public Health – Seattle & King County Director Patty Hayes. “Our partners in law enforcement and retail endorse safe storage practices, which many firearm owners already follow. This legislation will help ensure all Seattle residents are taking this important step toward family and community safety.”
The City and County continue to take a public health approach to reducing gun violence with the “LOK-IT-UP” initiative which promotes safe storage and offers discounts to purchase safe storage devices as part of the King County Gun Violence Prevention Initiative.