An ordinance requiring that Edmonds residents safely lock up their firearms or face a fine passed the Edmonds City Council by a 5-1 vote Tuesday night, generating sustained applause by a contingent of supporters in the council chamber.
Councilmember Neil Tibbott was on vacation and unavailable by phone, thus the 5-1 vote. Voting against the measure was Councilmember Kristiana Johnson.
At the start of the meeting, the council chamber was filled to overflowing as citizens gathered to speak to a range of causes, which included not only safe firearms storage but also the city’s draft affordable housing strategy.
In addition, many members of the city’s largest union — Teamsters Local 763 — turned out in a show of support as their business agent, Liz Brown, asked the council to “change direction” in its ongoing labor negotiations with the local.
Teamsters Local 763 represents nearly 70 city employees who work at the wastewater treatment plant, and in jobs related to water, sewer, streets, stormwater, parks and facilities. Brown said the two sides have been negotiating since August 2017 for a new agreement to replace the three-year contract that expired on Dec. 31, 2017.
“In the past we negotiated directly with city officials but this time despite having the in-house expertise, the city has paid more than $38,000 to an outside labor attorney to stall, stonewall and strong arm us,” Brown said during her public comments to the council Tuesday night.
Noting that another bargaining date is scheduled for August, Brown urged the council to ensure negotiation of “a contract that is fair for everyone.”
According to our earlier story here, among the sticking points: health care benefits, wages and job-bidding language.
Under the newly-passed gun storage ordinance, proposed earlier this month by City Council President Mike Nelson, those failing to secure their firearms could face a civil infraction of up to $500. If a child or other prohibited person gains access to a firearm that should have been secured, the violator can be fined up to $1,000. If someone is hurt as a result of that person gaining access, the fine increases to up to $10,000.
Since the goal is to educate citizens prior to enforcement, the law will become effective 180 days after passage.
Voting against the measure was Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who said she was doing so out of caution, noting a current lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association against the City of Seattle over a similar ordinance. Since the Edmonds ordinance doesn’t take effect for 180 days, the city has time to wait, Johnson argued, to see if there’s an outcome related to that lawsuit, and also whether statewide citizens gun safety Initiative 1639 passes in November.
The four remaining councilmembers, however, took turns speaking in favor of safe storage of firearms, citing both personal family experiences with firearm-related deaths as well as statistics related to recent gun violence.
“We have an opportunity to make a statement,” said Councilmember Tom Mesaros. “Not because it’s an ordinance but because it’s a societal issue we face as a community.”
Added Councilmember Dave Teitzel: “I believe we need to take a lead. We need to embolden other communities to take similar action and I hope by our action tonight that message is sent.”
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that while she supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, “I just want people to be careful and safe with their guns.
“I’m not preventing anybody from owning a gun, keeping a gun,” she said.
“We need to move forward and be leaders,” said Councilmember Diane Buckshnis. “And I’m willing to be that leader and stand up for this very simple and safe ordinance.”
Nelson said: “I’m not going to have our city wait. I’m not going to pass the buck, if one child’s death can be prevented.”
Also expressing support for the measure was Mayor Dave Earling. “This is a small thing and we need to do several small things, evidently, to move the ball and have some of our legislators take note of the actions taken,” said Earling, referring to the state Legislature’s inability so far to pass a similar measure.
During the public comment period prior to the vote, Edmonds resident Laura Johnson pointed to councilmembers’ comments during several past meetings about the need to reduce gun violence.
“You were elected to legislate on our behalf,” Johnson said. “So if you leave addressing gun violence to the people, or if you choose not to vote or if you delay out of fear, then you have chosen not to represent and protect us, and for your complacency and your inaction you are by default supporting the gun lobby.”
Speaking against the gun storage measure, Edmonds resident Swan Seaberg said the problem isn’t with guns, but with the fact that young people don’t learn about gun safety and are subjected to bullying in schools. “I grew up around lots of guns and we didn’t have any problems,” he said.
Edmonds resident Mike Rosen was among those speaking regarding the city’s draft housing strategy, and said he was grateful that people were in the same room, talking about options. “We’re each in this room because we love this place…so let’s continue to work together,” he said.
(We’ll have more about the housing strategy discussion in a later story.)
Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, the council:
– Approved by a 5-1 vote (Councilmember Johnson voting against) amendments to a previously approved ordinance governing lost or stolen firearms.
– Unanimously approved a proposal to place the Yost House — located at 658 Maple St. — on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places.
-Heard a presentation from the representatives of the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group.
-Discussed an update to the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance.
-Postponed until a later meeting discussion of a proposal by the Edmonds Senior Center that the city “bear the full costs” of frontage improvements to the planned multi-generational waterfront center building.
— By Teresa Wippel