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Wednesday will reveal Seattle mayor’s gun control agenda

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will hold a special meeting with the City Council Wednesday to discuss "gun violence."
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will hold a special meeting with the City Council Wednesday to discuss "gun violence."Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

Yesterday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s hand-picked police chief, Kathleen O’Toole, was sworn in to lead the beleaguered department, and tomorrow at 1 p.m. he will hold a special meeting with the city council to address “gun violence,” which could be a learning experience for one and all.

O’Toole has been in and out of law enforcement in Massachusetts and recently in Ireland, but she’s yet to walk a beat west of the Mississippi or north of the Columbia and when – not “if” – the mayor starts talking about gun control, she’ll be facing something not found in the Bay State. Gun owners in Washington State don’t need permission from police or politicians to exercise their rights, and they know it. Local governments can't set their own firearms policies, and gun owners know that, too.

There is no permit or license required to own a firearm here. The waiting period for a handgun purchase does not apply to citizens with a current, valid concealed pistol license.

Under Washington’s state constitutional provision, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired.” The tenet does not authorize any individual or any corporation to organize, maintain or employ and armed body of men.

Under Washington state statute passed in 1983, strengthened in 1985 and reinforced by a unanimous appeals court ruling in Chan v. City of Seattle – a case brought by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, both based in Bellevue, and the National Rifle Association – in October 2011, the state legislature has sole authority in the field of firearms law. This precludes Seattle from adopting regulations that exceed or conflict with state gun laws.

Open Carry is legal in Washington, and this is a “shall issue” state for concealed pistol licenses. Earlier this month, Examiner checked with the Department of Licensing and found there were more than 457,000 active CPLs. This morning, a quick telephone call revealed that number has bumped up by more than 3,500 to 460,684 active licenses.

The accused shooter at Seattle Pacific University legally purchased his firearm – a double-barreled over-and-under shotgun, the recommended defensive firearm of Vice President Joe Biden – several years ago. Yesterday he appeared in court, and there is some indication he may plead insanity as a defense.

Washington gun owners – facing an 18-page gun control measure this fall in the form of Initiative 594, which touts so-called “universal background checks” (UBC) for all firearms transfers (not just sales) – are cognizant that most recent mass shooters passed background checks, including the Santa Barbara gunman. California has not only a UBC, but a ten-day waiting period and a 10-round magazine limit, and spree killer Elliot Rodger complied with them all. It's being overlooked by the press now, but Rodger killed three of his victims with a knife.

During his tenure in the State Senate, Murray supported all sorts of gun control measures, including a so-called “assault weapons” ban that would have allowed sheriff’s deputies to perform warrantless searches of gun owners’ homes. At the time, Murray claimed ignorance of that section of the legislation, suggesting that he didn’t even know what was in his own bill, co-sponsored by two other Seattle anti-gunners, Senators Adam Kline and Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

Long story short, Seattle’s new police chief may be in for something of a culture shock. What might be beneficial, even novel, would be for Chief O’Toole to reach out to local gun rights advocates who just might offer different suggestions than Murray and the council on how to deal with violence in Seattle. That would be a meeting worth attending.