The City Council seeks input from the community on methods of promoting safe and responsible gun ownership at the state and local level in order to reduce mass shootings, homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. This input will inform the City Council as it considers potential changes to City ordinances and policies, City budget initiatives and the City’s state legislative agenda.
The City hosted a Town Hall on gun safety and community safety on June 20, 2018 at the Lake Washington High School Theater. A video of the meeting is available online. The Town Hall format was one method the City will use to collect input from the community on actions the City might undertake to reduce gun violence. The Town Hall sought to collect feedback from the Kirkland community on topics such as:
- Improved enforcement of existing laws and regulations
- Education and training programs to support responsible firearm ownership
- Mental health support and initiatives
- State and local legislation on firearm safety
What laws currently regulate firearms in the City of Kirkland?
State preemption of the subject matter field of “firearms regulation” makes regulation at the local level difficult, however:
“The state of Washington hereby occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities…may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter.” RCW 9.41.290
Local laws specifically authorized by state law are limited to:
- Restrictions on the discharge of firearms in areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of jeopardy to humans, domestic animals and property. RCW 9.41.300 (The discharge of guns in Kirkland parks is already prohibited, and City police officers may also have “reckless endangerment” charging authority under state law.)
- Restrictions on where guns can be sold if such businesses are located within 500 feet of primary or secondary school grounds. RCW 9.41.300
- Restrictions on possession in a stadium or convention center (not applicable to Kirkland). RCW 9.41.300
- A city may also dictate the manner in which forfeited firearms are disposed of (e.g. destroyed). RCW 9.41.098. In Kirkland, such firearms are already being destroyed. See KMC 11.45.075
The issues of gun safety and school safety have been around for decades, but the tragic killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, has reignited the debate in communities around the nation, including in Kirkland.
At the March 6, 2017, Council meeting, the City Attorney provided the Council with a short briefing on the state preemption of most actions by local governments related to gun regulations. The City Attorney also highlighted some actions the City has taken where it does have authority, such as the policy to destroy any guns seized by Police that are not needed as evidence.
On March 14, 2018, the City Council welcomed over 70 parents from various Kirkland schools to City Hall to discuss potential actions that could be taken to keep students safe from gun violence. On March 21, 2018, the Lake Washington School District and the City of Kirkland hosted a community discussion about school safety and community action at Lake Washington High School Theater. Both the March 14 and March 21 events included a presentation by the City Attorney on the state preemption of most actions by local governments related to gun regulations, and public feedback provided at both events included requests to City Council to work through the City’s legislative delegation to move legislation related to gun safety and gun regulation.
At the City Council meeting on April 17, 2018, public comment was provided that requested Council to adopt a resolution to “Save Lives through Gun Safety” which called for the City to take action on gun safety and community safety and to engage the community for input on these topics. The Council requested that staff draft such a resolution for review and adopted Resolution R-5312 at the May 1, 2018, Council meeting.
On Monday, April 23, 2018, the City Clerk received a petition, now formally designated as Petition G-18-233, calling for the Council to adopt a gun safety resolution at the May 1st, 2018 Council meeting. The petition included over one hundred signatures from Kirkland residents at the time of submissions.
On April 20, 2018, seven students from Kamiakin Middle School walked out of school as part of a national walk out in recognition of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that occurred in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999. Those seven students came to City Hall to request the City take action to protect students from gun violence and to inquire about how they may address the Council.
The above events demonstrates the community’s interest in what could be done at the local level as well as in the development of a possible state legislative agenda priorities related to gun safety and community safety. However, there are significant constitutional and legal constraints around what can be done locally. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution states “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
State law also provides for the “preemption” of almost all firearms regulations by the State of Washington. For example, RCW 9.41.290 provides, in part, that the State “hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulations within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components.” Pursuant to that same statute, local governments can enact only those regulations that are specifically authorized by state law.
Presently, those authorizations are narrowly limited to the unsafe discharge of firearms, the possession of firearms in a stadium or convention center, and the proximity of gun sales establishments to schools. See RCW 9.41.300. Nevertheless, engagement with the community, particularly inviting a wide range of views on the topics of gun safety and community safety, provided feedback to the City Council ahead of the formation of the City’s 2019 legislative agenda setting process.
The City was also undertaking initial outreach efforts to engage the public in the 2019-2020 biennial budget. As in any budget process, there is not sufficient resources to provide funding for every community request. Knowing public sentiment on the topics of gun safety and community safety in relation to other budget priorities provided feedback to the City Council in the adoption of the 2019-2020 biennial budget and 2019-2020 City Work Program.
Resolution R-5312 authorized the City Manager to:
- seek the community’s input on the topic of gun safety and community safety through a Town Hall and additional engagement strategies;
- research methods of promoting safe and responsible gun ownership at the state and local levels;
- collaborate with public and private partners on possible state and local legislation around gun safety and community safety; and
- report the results of these efforts to the City Council, no later than July 17, 2018. The report will include options for potential changes to City ordinances and policies, City budget initiatives, and the City’s state legislative agenda based on the community engagement results.