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Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Seattle City Council to seek assault-weapons ban

By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council on Monday amended its annual legislative agenda to include several gun-safety measures in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school Friday that left 27 people dead, including 20 children.

The council called on its city lobbyists to seek in the 2013 Legislature a ban on all assault weapons; a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines; universal background checks that include gun shows; trigger locks and storage requirements; and microstamping technology on all firearms to improve the capability of police to trace fired bullets.

Councilmember Tim Burgess, who introduced the gun-safety amendment, cited research on gun violence showing that states with just three regulations — an assault-weapons ban and requirements for trigger locks and safe storage — have lower levels of gun deaths per capita than states without those protections.

The amendment passed unanimously, but Councilmember Bruce Harrell cautioned that the city's legislative agenda — the priorities it gives its lobbyists for the state Legislature's annual session — has included gun-safety measures every year since 2008, without results.

Harrell called for a special committee made up of police, prosecutors, public-health and youth advocates to explore a statewide ballot initiative that would give cities authority to regulate firearms.

Harrell said an initiative would allow a direct vote of the people and could get around the strong pro-gun lobby in Olympia. He said many states, including New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, allow cities to adopt stricter gun regulations.

Under former Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle tried to ban weapons from parks and community centers, but that ban was struck down by the courts because state law does not allow cities to pass gun legislation more restrictive than the state's.

Former City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski also called for a state initiative, but one that would ban assault rifles and close a gun-show loophole, rather than seeking authority for cities to enact their own gun laws.

Writing in the online journal Crosscut, Podlodowski said, "I'm not naive enough to think that one initiative campaign is a panacea in a country that has 270 million guns in private hands."

But she said that Washington has led the way with progressive initiatives on gay marriage and marijuana. She said state voters could "make a start at lasting change nationwide."

On Friday, Mayor Mike McGinn also called for stronger gun-control laws, noting that "those that oppose those changes will just try to ride out" the inevitable calls for tougher laws.

McGinn said, "It is the duty of the people and of elected officials to keep the pressure on because that is what will happen if we do not take this as the call to action that it should be."

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.


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