|12/5/2012 1:50:00 PM|
Lawsuit threat forces repeal of gun code
Due to the threat of a lawsuit by the Bellevue based Second Amendment Foundation, the Leavenworth City Council has been forced to repeal local laws limiting gun possession.
The Second Amendment Foundation drafted a letter to Leavenworth City Attorney Thom Graafstra in September, informing him the Leavenworth Municipal Code was in violation of state law, with regard to the possession of firearms at city hall or the cemetery.
The Leavenworth Municipal Code prohibits the carrying of firearms at city hall, library and cemetery. These laws were enacted in the mid 1990s. The Second Amendment Foundation pointed out in the letter these codes were violation of state law and should be repealed.
Failure to so, the letter states, "puts the city of Leavenworth at risk for a lawsuit."
Graafstra brought the matter before the council at the Nov. 27 meeting.
"It is pretty straight forward. Obviously, these folks believe very strongly in their second amendment rights and monitor cities to make sure they are in compliance with state law. The possession of firearms is regulated by and preempted by state law," Graafstra said. "Some city code is inconsistent and needs to be brought into compliance."
Councilman Bob Francis, a Chelan County Sheriff's Deputy, lamented people could bring firearms to city hall, but not to the courts.
"That's right. Under state law, at school district and court facilities, there is an ability to prohibit possession of firearms. The interesting thing is now a lot of city councils hold their meetings in the same board room and chamber as school districts," Graafstra said. "That facility has the protection and the ability under state law to prohibit the possession of firearms."
The Snohomish City Council meetings are held in a school district board room, he said.
The proposal to repeal the city code drew the strongest reaction from Councilman Michael Molohon.
"I have been on the council for six years. This is the most, and this is no offense to anyone except the state, the most backward piece of legislation that has come before us. I will be damned if I am going to vote for it," Molohon said. "I cannot believe, in this day and age, after all that has happened in this country with guns, that you can allow people in this room with guns."
He said he was not just concerned for his own personal safety, but for the safety of those attending council meetings.
"This is sheer insanity from my point of view. I don't get worked up very often, but this one has me going," he said. "If we do repeal this piece, will there be protection for the city council meetings? Will the Sheriff be required to be here?"
As for council security, Graafstra said they can require the chief law enforcement officer to be at council meetings, but arrangements would be have made within the sheriff's department contract.
As to whether or not the council passes repeals the code, he said Leavenworth is not unique.
"Nearly every city that had various provisions in city code dealing with restrictions on the carrying of firearms have seen the same letter," Graafstra said. "And a number of cities have already taken action to revise their code consistent with state law, because nobody wants to get sued by this group."
Molohon said what frosts him the most is a group people from Bellevue telling Leavenworth it cannot protect it's own people.
"I don't agree with it, but I understand the law," Francis said. "The goal is we have to get the legislature to change the law and include city council chambers. Right now, as we sit here today, if someone walks in here with a gun, we would not know it. Whether there was a police officer here or not, we would not know if someone walks in with a gun."
Councilman Peter DeVries said this was the second time the council has been faced with a different federal or state law.
"Now, we are looking at another state law. So we have to work through the legislature to change it. I will vote for this motion because it is the law," DeVries said.
The council approved the repeal by a split vote, with Molohon and Tibor Lak voting against and Larry Meyer, Bob Francis, Elmer Larsen and Peter DeVries voting for it.
Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or email@example.com.
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