Kirkland may soon change its code to ban firing guns in most circumstances, bringing city laws in line with many other local jurisdictions like Issaquah and Redmond.
“In general, state law preempts the ability of local governments to legislate in the area of firearms,” said city attorney Kevin Raymond, though he noted that there are three or four exceptions, including discharge in locations that present risks to people, domestic animals and property.
At its April 2 meeting, the Kirkland City Council considered a change in city code to ban the discharge of firearms except “at licensed rifle and pistol shooting ranges, by law enforcement officers engaged in the performance of their official powers or duties, and by individuals exercising their constitutional right to defend themselves and others.”
“As part of the city’s ongoing efforts to actively support gun safety and responsible gun ownership in Kirkland, the council is considering whether significant growth in Kirkland has resulted in there no longer being safe locations in the city to shoot guns (outside of licensed shooting ranges),” according to a city press release.
The council didn’t vote on the draft ordinance last week, but the group expressed general support and will consider it again for possible final action on May 7.
Councilmembers and city staff brought up several scenarios in which a gun may be discharged in the city, such as a police officer putting down an animal that was hit by a car, or a gunsmith firing into a clearing barrel for testing purposes.
Raymond said that the draft ordinance doesn’t anticipate every situation, but leaves it up to police discretion if a citation should be issued or not.
“In its current form, the ordinance would rely on the state law definition of ‘firearm,’ which applies only to devices that shoot projectiles, such as bullets, through use of an explosive, such as gunpowder,” according to the release. “Violation of the ordinance would constitute a misdemeanor, which is generally punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, but citations and prosecutions under the ordinance would involve significant officer and prosecutorial discretion depending on the facts and circumstances.”
Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold said that there was a robust discussion about the ban on social media, but that the draft ordinance seemed to address the questions raised in the community. Most councilmembers agreed that the city should do some public outreach, possibly a “frequently asked questions” webpage, to explain the reasons for the ban.
Kirkland started a community dialogue on gun safety last May, shortly after the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. The gun conversation was folded into Kirkland’s desire to be a “safe, welcoming and inclusive city.”
See www.kirklandwa.gov for more.