Council votes to remove firearms restrictions from mayor’s emergency powers; OKs temporary lift of plastic bag ban

Following council action Friday, plastic bags can be used in Edmonds retail stores temporarily — due to a paper bag shortage and health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

At a special Friday afternoon meeting, the Edmonds City Council voted unanimously to remove the mayor’s ability — during an emergency —  to prevent citizens from carrying or possessing firearms.

The controversial subsection G provision, contained in the city’s recently amended disaster preparedness ordinance, had been a flashpoint for Second Amendment advocates and had even drawn a group — led by gubernatorial candidate and tax activist Tim Eyman — to the mostly empty council chambers Tuesday night. (To observe social distancing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the council has been meeting remotely, so the only person in the chambers at the time of the group’s appearance was City Clerk Scott Passey.)

Subsection G was among several provisions included in the emergency mayoral powers amendment approved by the council during a special meeting called by Mayor Mike Nelson Sunday, March 22. The subsection would have allowed the mayor — or any future mayors — to prohibit the carrying or possession of firearms “or any instrument which is capable of producing bodily harm and which is carried or possessed with intent to use the same to cause such harm.”

Nelson called the special council meeting on Friday specifically to request the council pass a new ordinance removing subsection G, and also to consider temporarily lifting the city’s ban on light-gauge plastic bags in light of the COVID-10 epidemic.

Before taking a vote on removing subsection G, there was robust council discussion about the amendment itself and how the council should proceed. First, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson raised a point of order and asked for a motion to reconsider the vote taken last Sunday, March 22 rather than to adopt a new ordinance. City Attorney Jeff Taraday replied that reconsideration was only appropriate during the same meeting at which the action was taken. Johnson replied that wasn’t true under Roberts Rules of Order, but Taraday said the council’s practice has been to allow reconsideration votes only during the same meeting.

Then Councilmember Diane Buckshnis weighed in, stating Taraday was incorrect and adding that the council has in the past handle the reconsideration of votes both ways.

Mayor Mike Nelson then denied Johnson’s point of order and Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas went on to move the ordinance — to amend the city’s Disaster Preparation and Coordination ordinance to remove subsection G regarding the mayor’s authority prohibiting the carrying or possession of firearms.

During discussion regarding the motion, Buckshnis asked the city attorney whether, in light of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order issued March 23, the council could repeal the entire Disaster Preparation and Coordination ordinance “because a lot of people believe this is martial law enforcement.” Citizens have expressed concerns that other emergency procedures outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan aren’t being followed under the ordinance, which the council voted March 22 to amend, Buckshnis said.

Taraday said the council can always repeal an ordinance but couldn’t do so on Friday because it wasn’t on the agenda. Friday’s action only deals with subsection G related to the possession and carrying of firearms, he added.

“People need to realize we’ve just given the mayor martial law powers, and Tuesday we weren’t allowed to talk about it,” Buckshnis said, referring to frustrations expressed by some councilmembers that they had been told they could review and ratify Sunday’s emergency ordinance at the Tuesday, March 24 council meeting — but then that matter wasn’t on the agenda.

At the time of that discussion Tuesday night, Taraday said that he wanted more time to provide legal analysis of citizen concerns raised by the emergency ordinance. In response, Councilmember Susan Paine moved that Taraday be given four to six weeks to present an analysis, a motion that was approved.

On Friday afternoon, Paine reiterated that the idea behind her approved motion Tuesday night was to ensure the entire disaster preparedness ordinance “could have a more comprehensive and thoughtful review, including public comment.”

In the end, the council voted unanimously to remove Subsection G from the ordinance.

Regarding the plastic bag ban, City Attorney Taraday explained that the city had been contacted by grocery store chain representatives with two concerns about the use of reusable grocery bags during the COVID-19 outbreak. First, there’s a shortage of in-store paper bags because so many people are buying large quantities of groceries to ensure their kitchen are well stocked during the pandemic. And second, grocery clerks are worried “they may be exposing themselves unnecessarily to the virus if they are dealing with bags that are brought from people’s homes,” Taraday said.

Originally, the ban was suggested for 90 days but Fraley-Monillas proposed an amendment reducing that ban to 60 days based on feedback that the shorter time frame would allow stores to again acquire an inventory of bags. That amendment passed unanimously.

During the discussion on the main motion — to approve temporarily lifting the ban — Councilmember Paine said she couldn’t support the measure, noting that “adding plastics to our waste stream is very problematic, it just ends up in our water and then the animals that ingest them.”

Instead, Paine said, people shouldn’t be stockpiling or hoarding food, and officials should be working on changing behavior instead.

Councilmember Luke Distelhorst agreed with Paine, adding he would like to see creation of procedures that address limiting the exposure of grocery workers in the first place. “I would really be worried about getting into a pattern of bringing back single-use plastic bags into our system,” he said.

The council voted 4-3 to temporarily lift the bag ban, with Councilmembers Distelhorst, Buckshnis and Paine voting no.

— By Teresa Wippel





30 Replies to “Council votes to remove firearms restrictions from mayor’s emergency powers; OKs temporary lift of plastic bag ban”

  1. Good. Glad that’s off the table. I have spent my whole working with or supporting frontline workers. If grocery clerks are worried, “they may be exposing themselves unnecessarily to the virus if they are dealing with bags that are brought from people’s homes”. I believe them. In contrast to a few city Councilmembers castle in the sky dreams.


  2. Why in the world would the lift the firearms restrictions? Now I feel afraid of not just the virus, but also my neighbors.


    1. I am glad the mayor and council removed the bullseye off of the city. If there are desperate people out there who learn that during the state of emergency Edmonds residents are prohibited from defending ourselves, we are an easy mark. I welcome and am grateful for our neighbors who responsibly honor the 2nd Amendment.


  3. I watched the meeting live on Channel 21 and thought it was well handled. The Mayor and “most” council members kept to the issues at hand without digressing; grandstanding to make some point; or tout their expertise over the others. There was a little of that, but not objectionably so in my opinion. Good job Mayor and Council! Admitting and correcting a mistake is not a sign of weakness. It projects strength in difficult times.

    There is a very simple answer to the grocery bags issue that I have employed even before the onslaught of this horrible virus. I use the self check outs at all the major outlets and just put my items back in the cart. I take the items to my car and put the items in my own bags to take into my house. This gets me out of the stores quicker and negates the need to worry about paper or plastic. You can also do this in the checkout line too if you have rather large quantities of items.

    Since the virus, I’ve taken to trying to disinfect my bags and some of the items that might be more likely to harbor the virus. Those little disinfectant wipes are very handy and I carry a small plastic bag of them with me to frequently disinfect my rubber gloves, door handles, shopping cart handles etc. The plastic bag needs to be kept sealed with the air pushed out to maintain strength of the disinfectant. Hope some of you find this helpful, for some piece of mind, if nothing else.


  4. Sometimes the actions we take have unintended consequences. When I lived in Portland the city public housing authority passed an ordinance to ban weapons in public housing. When bad actors (who kept their guns) started harassing the other residents of the public housing the city rescinded their action.


    1. Nancy Cohen, please get to know your neighbors, you will soon realize they can help you. Mine get the mail, who ever hears the truck first, will get the mail for the others. We watch each others home when we are gone. Bring bakery and yearly jam to each other. However in a worst case scenario when our police are busy, no stranger will be able to safely break into our homes.


  5. Our mayor is why 2A exists.

    1) Lapdogs activists in Seattle, uses City Council seat as a vehicle for creating gun laws (IN SECRET without the knowledge of fellow council members).

    2) Mike creates Safe Storage Law knowing it was in violation of 2A and WA state preemption law, hoping judge would dismiss it due to no one being charged with it (it was political only, not safety-related).

    3) After loss in court, initiates appeal to law, costing us money and embarrassing Edmonds on the national stage.

    4) While nurses in Hong Kong were protesting that they weren’t equipped to fight coronavirus flooding in from China (January-February), that they didn’t have enough ventilators, our mayor was protesting with Swedish nurses because they didn’t have enough metal detectors to protect them from guns brought into the hospitals.

    5) Now there’s pandemic, and firearm ownership is evermore important. Other than being able to mobilize the National Guard, our mayor is granted the powers of a governor and doesn’t blink at being able to prohibit the carry of firearms. This is his signature achievement, something I think he’ll invoke all the way to Olympia when he’s done with us.


  6. Actually, the 2nd. Amendment exists because the founding fathers realized the citizen needed to have his/her right to protect him/herself from any existential harm as best they could (self defense). This was especially true for the times because there was little in the way of codified law, professional law enforcement or standing armies in the Colonies and Territories. Firearms were not a want, they were an absolute necessity for the times in terms of survival.

    The big quandary for modern times, is how much in the way of personal protection should be allowed or deemed necessary. Should someone be allowed to possess and carry a flame thrower or fully automatic 100 round firearm to insure their right to self defense? Is or should your measure of self defense be solely limited to your ability to buy it? If you can afford a bazooka should you be allowed to have one? The gun lobby seems to believe that answer is yes. Are they correct? I don’t know.


    1. Actually, actually,

      “Should someone be allowed to possess and carry a flame thrower or fully automatic 100 round firearm to insure their right to self defense?”

      Why is the 2020 Corvette able to reach 194mph when the top speed limit in the US is 85mph?

      I personally know people who own their own fighter jets, so yes there are means to get weapons of war as a civilian. I think you should be able to won whatever weapon you can get your hands on; machine guns, pressure cookers, Ryder trucks.


  7. Matt and Clint, the 2A seems to allow us to “keep and bear arms” but can we discharge them in Edmonds? If we can where is it allows or where is it prohibited?


    1. You can discharge a firearm downtown Edmonds (any town in WA) providing you have a sanctioned reason to do so (see unlawful discharge of weapon):

      The history that Clint is mentioning behind 2A is wrong. Lexington and Concord are why 2A exists, not self-defense or hunting. The weapon stockpiles were stockpiles… they weren’t needed for “survival”. I really don’t know what he’s talking about. The context behind 2A is specific.
      “[The] battle of Lexington and Concord, which started our Revolutionary War, was precipitated by the British efforts to confiscate weapons and powder from colonials. ”


  8. Yes, exactly. Lexington and Concord were an existential threat to the citizen’s perceived right to their own self defense. Hence the idea that the people should be given the right to keep and bear arms “in a well organized militia” which were the stock piles of weapons that Matt is referring to. Other possible threats were indigenous people trying to protect their lands which were being expropriated by the colonists (Indian attacks and wars), wild animals such as bears and wolves trying to eat their livestock (or on rare occasions them), and social misfits with firearms and other weapons who would steal and plunder (criminals).

    Owning a weapon was, in fact, often a necessity to assuring survival in the frontier areas for a variety of reasons. Other than the largest of cities such as New York and Philadelphia there was little in the way of police protection and courts of law. The law was often groups of armed men, sometimes vigilantes and sometimes posses led by a constable of some sort. Trials were often held by and “justice” done by these same groups of armed men led by some sort of quasi official.

    As to Darrol’s comment, I’m reasonably sure firing a gun in Edmond’s is pretty much an illegal act unless you are shooting someone who has entered your home with the intent to do bodily harm. That would most likely have to be proven after the fact to some sort of officer of the court. Blasting crows in the city park would probably frowned upon. The laws are pretty well spelled out.

    Apparently Matt seems to feel we should all be allowed to have a shoulder fired rocket if we have the money and think we need one. Personally, I’ll stick with my little .22. Less apt to hurt myself or someone else with that.


  9. Matt’s the expert, but I think the actual wording of the amendment might be ” in a well regulated militia.” I’m sure he will rebut me here, so he can clear any confusion about that up if he wants.


  10. I hesitate to add to this untimely gun discussion, but let me note that when the Second Amendment was written, firearms were smooth-bore muzzle-loaded muskets. Our founding fathers would be horrified at the firepower of the semi-automatic weapons with 30-round magazines sold in today’s gun stores, and I doubt very much they would accept their proliferation among an untrained public.


    1. If we go along with your reasoning which is certainly logical. How about if we need to defend ourselves and the bad guys have a machine gun mounted on a truck? Why would we only be allowed to have a musket? Or freedom of speech certainly did not take into account our modern times. Should freedom of speech not apply to phones, tv, or on the internet? Freedom of speech really only applied person to person, in acrowd, or in print.


    2. A very good argument for re-evaluating and revising the constitution from time to time, as things change – which was Jefferson’s idea anyway. A society which cannot change and adapt is doomed to fail, as Karl Popper pointed out in The Open Society and its Enemiesas far back as 1945.


  11. You guys are invoking the what I call the “comma” debate, in reference to grammatical placement of the comma in the 2A. If we look at the Original Intent of the 2A, including the prior revisions of the 2A (there were prior drafts), the comma is inconsequential on the correct interpretation – it’s got nothing to do with militias and mentioning militias before the comma is just preamble. This was affirmed by SCOTUS.


  12. Roger, the founders would be horrified by email, but that doesnt render the 1st or 4th Amendmends obsolete. No one made the argument that the founders never envisioned network cable television when Jim Acosta had his press pass pulled by the White House.

    Besides, there were cannons and machines in 1776. These implications were already know. The pucklegun predates the Constitution.


  13. “How about if we need to defend ourselves and the bad guys have a machine gun mounted on a truck?”

    Can you tell us what neighborhood you live in? I’d like to avoid it.


    1. Nathianiel, Mexico.

      Guns are like a vaccine. When we don’t have measles any more, people start to forgo the vaccine and will even criticize the vaccine. Mexico has the Gun Control laws you want and they also have the neighborhoods that have the machine guns mounted to trucks killing people. The gangs are killing each other at a record rate right now. Show me one kid with mumps. It’s so rare, we ought to just stop the vaccine.

      Honestly, we’ve had the debate a dozen times and I feel like you’ve lost it every time. I’m too old so I’m done.


      1. If by likening our freedom to bear arms to the nation’s vaccine program you are referring to how both are attributed to the death or long-term disability of otherwise healthy kids, then okay. Or if you are identifying how the numbers of guns and vaccines have both increased, and that their composition and structure has evolved and become more deadly to those on the receiving end, then okay.

        But please don’t parrot the false mantra that vaccine hesitancy is attributed to lack of childhood diseases. If that we’re the case, after the measels in-break last year our state government would not have passed a law removing the personal exemption to the measels vaccine, but they did.

        Parents who have educated themselves on the risks of vaccines and chosen the hard road of resisting childhood immunizations for their kiddos should be given a medal. Please don’t shoot them down.


        1. People have the right to not have a gun and I think they should also have the right to not be vaccinated. It’s a choice, even if foolish, to not vaccinate your kids. Now, let’s say the government used force to vaccinate our kids, maybe rounded up kids where werent vaccinated for their own protection… what sorta thing would we need to prevent that type of policy from even being considered? I’m imagining something made out of metal and goes “pew pew”.


        2. I successfully refused the anthrax vaccine as a vet btw. I served 6 years and did two tours, but was not bullied into taking anthrax, even with the threat of court martial.


        3. Brian, the Constitution addresses Marital Law more explicitly than Interstate Commerce (both barely). Because it’s so vague, I am a bit afraid that Martial Law powers could evolve in the same way Interstate Commerce powers evolved, from being a Constitutional side-note into being most of what the government does.

          As an atheist, I say thank god that Donald Trump may be the one with those powers instead of Hillary Clinton or George Bush. Look at any despot, any dictatorship, you’ll find a deep-state agent that took over, usually via emergency power. Saddam was cop, others were generals like Pinochet. Putin was KGB, which would leave me to believe that someone like James Comey or Dick Cheney would waste no time taking over America if this opportunity presented itself. The virtue of the Democrat party right now is that they hate Trump so much that they’ll keep him in check.

          Star Wars:


  14. As someone involved in the gun debate for many years, one thing I’ve learned is never underestimate the ability of gunners to put out absurd and/or foolish arguments to justify their support of firearms proliferation.


      1. Oh Matt, you truly have a great sense of humor and you use it to your advantage to expose those who try calling your commentary “foolish or absurd” as they ultimately end up with the names they call you, sticking to themselves! You are a master Sir, and you never disappoint! Hopefully they never learn, as the entertainment value of your rebuttals are simply priceless!


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