Story Summary

Gun control debate

The 113th Congress hotly debated gun control bills and legislation in 2013. Nationwide, states are also considering various gun control legislative measures.

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 By Richard A. Serrano and Alexei Koseff, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would close loopholes in the rules on acquiring machine guns and other dangerous weapons and ban U.S. military-style firearms sent overseas from returning to this country.

The announcement of the new executive actions came as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to the new head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the first Senate-confirmed director in the agency’s history. Biden pledged that the White House would not give up its efforts to set up more gun controls despite congressional inaction after the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school late last year.

“The president and I remain committed to getting these things done,” Biden said at the White House ceremony installing B. Todd Jones as the ATF’s first permanent director in seven years. “If Congress doesn’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress. It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”

In the past, some individuals seeking to avoid personal background checks when purchasing machine guns and short-barreled shotguns have claimed they were “trusts or corporations.” But a new ATF regulation will close this loophole and require them to pass background checks. Last year, the ATF said, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these firearms to trusts and corporations to skirt the checks.

The other executive action was aimed at keeping U.S. military weapons sold to foreign governments from being reimported to this country. Since 2005, the U.S. government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms. Under the new rule, only firearms reimported for museums and other exceptions would be allowed.

The executive actions drew quick criticism from gun rights organizations who said the requirements will not lower gun violence but instead only continue the president’s fight against legitimate gun enthusiasts. “Evidently he’s been elected king, and not president,” Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, said in an interview. “He’s made it fairly clear that he doesn’t like the 2nd Amendment.”

However, others welcomed the changes. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said 90% of the American public demands stronger background checks, and that “today the Obama administration locked one back door used to get around” those checks.

portland assault guns

Courtesy KPTV

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the anti-gun violence organization Washington CeaseFire announced a plan Monday to encourage businesses to become gun-free zones.  Leaders say it’s an important step to help curb violence.

guns“This is one of the things we can do,” said McGinn, clearly frustrated that state legislators failed to pass universal background checks or any other gun-control legislation in Olympia this past session.  “These businesses are saying, we don’t want guns in our establishments.”

McGinn argued it’s an important step, given that state law prevents Seattle from banning guns on city-owned property, such as parks and community centers.

“If people leave their guns at home, don’t bring them into these business establishments, we hope we can make the city safer,” said McGinn.

Leaders of Washington CeaseFire, which developed the idea, admit that this won’t stop determined killers, such as last year’s Café Racer shooter.  But they argue it might stop disputes from escalating into deadly events, at least in the new places where guns now won’t be allowed.

“When you take the gun out of the equation, whether it’s the home or any place else and arguments might end up as fisticuffs,” said CeaseFire board chairman Ralph Fascitelli. “But they’re not going to end up in violence.”

Gun-rights groups took aim at the new proposal Monday.

“Gun-free zones are a piece of the problem,” said Alan Gottlieb, of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.  He noted that the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.,  was a gun-free zone, as was the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

“Where do you have most of these mass crimes?” Gottlieb asked. “In gun free zones, because they are victim disarmament zones, and criminals can go there knowing they’re not going to be shot back at.”

Proponents of the gun-free businesses plan rejects the notion that armed, law-abiding citizens can effectively stop violent incidents.

“People don’t realize how difficult it is to get a gun if somebody’s going to jump on you, how difficult it is to shoot it accurately,” said Fascitelli.  “They don’t understand how nervous you get, you know, when somebody takes you by surprise.”

Opponents vow to fight the mayor and others, including working to stop a restrictive gun-control initiative that is expected to make the ballot next year.

“It is a culture war,” said Gottlieb.  “They have attacked our culture and we’re fighting back.”

Thirty businesses have already signed on to the gun-free zone program, including Café Racer, Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, Elliott Bay Books, and Sweatshop Yoga.

Local News

Seattle businesses start ‘gun free zones’

SEATTLE — It’s an ambitious and controversial attempt to get firearms out of businesses after recent spikes of gun violence in the metro area. And the new “gun free zone” campaign pushed by Washington Cease Fire also has the support of Mayor Mike McGinn.

nogunssignSeveral businesses in Capitol Hill have put stickers near their building’s entrances, making it clear that firearms aren’t welcome. Shop owners said they have the right to say who can and can’t enter their stores. But not everyone thinks this idea will help reduce gun crimes.

“Every gun should be melted down and make a musical instrument out of it,” Sedat Uysal, who owns Café Paloma in Pioneer Square, said. Uysal plans to keep people who own guns out of his store. “They should take their guns to shooting ranges instead of public places,” he added.

The campaign was launched Monday at Oddfellows Café in Capitol Hill. The area is a scene where gunfire shook the neighborhood last month.

“It’s important to take steps like this,” Café Racer owner Kurt Geissel, who supports the gun free zone, said.

He knows the reality of gun violence — five people were gunned down in his café in May 2012.

“If it prevents one establishment, one person to have to not go through what we’ve gone through, it would be worth it. It may or may not work. There’s gotta be a dialogue — it starts a dialogue,” Geissel said.

Opponent think the conversation stops at the Constitution.

Ian Osborne always carries a gun and says he and other law-abiding gun owners are the key to ending violence.

“If an establishment doesn’t allow that then, well, you’ve got to respect that,” Osborne said. “Then one day when some mad man comes in and shoots up the place and murders everybody in there – well? They’ll learn their lesson I guess.”

The new push is in stark contrast to other businesses like Starbucks that does allow gun owners to open-carry inside their stores. As for Osborne, he won’t stop packing because of a sign on a window.

“I conceal carry. I’ll continue to conceal carry, but if an establishment asks me to leave I’ll have no choice,” he said.

The city of Seattle said they’re not spending any tax dollars on the guns free zone program. Businesses who want to be a part of this campaign can sign up online with Washington Cease Fire.

Businesses that currently participate in being gun free are:

  • 5 Point Café
  • Barboza
  • Big Mario’s Pizza
  • Brenthaven
  • Bus Stop Espresso
  • Café Paloma
  • Café Racer
  • Century Ballroom
  • Elliott Bay Books
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Fish Fry
  • Freddy’s Junior
  • Havana
  • Linda’s
  • Lost Lake Café & Lounge
  • Manhattan Seattle
  • Moe Bar
  • Molly Moons (6 locations_
  • Neumo’s
  • Nube Green
  • Oddfellows
  • Office Nomads
  • Platinum Records
  • Quinn’s
  • Smith
  • Southern Street Kids
  • Sweatbox Yoga
  • The Saint
  • Totokaelo
  • Zoe
Local News

Local businesses pledge to go gun-free


Photo courtesy of

SEATTLE — Local businesses are taking the pledge to stay gun free in the face of what one organization calls devastating gun violence.

Mayor Mike McGinn, Washington CeaseFire, and dozens of local businesses announced the launch of a new program designed to help local businesses become “Gun Free Zones.” The program increases the number “Gun Free Zones” around the city. Once signing a petition, participating businesses will place a “Gun Free Zone” decal sticker in their business, banning all customers from carrying a weapon — even with a valid concealed carry permit — into the store.

Neumos, Oddfellows, Elliot Bay Books, Cupcake Royale and Cafe Racer are just a few of the businesses signed up to participate so far.

“We’re making a statement as a community,” said Washington CeaseFire Board President Ralph Fascitelli. “We know this won’t stop someone determined to cause violence, but we hope that standing together and giving businesses a tool to say no to guns will change the conversation around gun violence.”

According to CeaseFire Washington, more people die from gun violence in King County each year than die in motor vehicle collisions. The estimated annual cost between 2007 and 2011 from firearms violence was $177 million.

Mayor McGinn said the city’s police force will enforce trespass laws if a gun-toting citizen enters a gun-free store.

“We are here to support businesses that do not wish to have guns on their premises,” McGinn said.

Washington CeaseFire is a statewide non-profit organization started in 1983.

portland assault guns

Courtesy KPTV

WASHINGTON D.C. — Organizers of an open carry gun march hope thousands of protesters display their loaded rifles this Independence Day in Washington D.C.

The event — organized by radio host and prominent libertarian Adam Kokesh — is being called the Open Carry March on Washington. Kokesh is calling for pro-gun activists to meet at the National Cemetery on the morning of July 4. Protestors, encouraged to carry loaded rifles, will march by the White House and around the capitol before heading down Constitution Avenue.

The event, being called an “act of civil disobedience” is not permitted, and will break Washington D.C. law, which does not allow for the open carry of a firearm.

The Facebook post announcing the event encouraged marchers to be nonviolent, but warned protesters they could see some resistance from law enforcement.

“This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent,” the event page read. “Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington.”

Nearly 4,000 people have signed up to attend. Though the event organizers warn of possible resistance, coordination with law enforcement agencies is expected.

To see the event page, click here.

PeaceSEATTLE — Turns out Mayor Mike McGinn’s plan to turn guns secured in a recent gun buyback program into Peace Bricks wasn’t well laid.

The mayor recently called for all 750 guns garnered from a gun buyback program to be turned into art, or something of “symbolic importance” to Seattle. However, the mayor’s office confirmed Thursday that almost all of the guns collected were destroyed before the mayor’s press conference and turned into rebar.

The mayor allegedly learned that the guns were lost prior to announcing his plan at a “Peace Bricks” peace conference. The mayor apologized for the alleged miss-communication between his staff and the police department that led to the guns being melted.

“I apologize for not being more forthcoming at our press conference.  We will be using metal from guns acquired at our next gun buy back for our Weapons to Words youth outreach effort. I was informed that morning that the guns from the first buy back were melted down for rebar used in community buildings.

The fact was I didn’t want this piece of information to distract from the program or the incredible support from Schnitzer Steel and the Chihuly family. We shared the information when directly asked, but we should have been more proactive in sharing the source of the metal for Weapons to Words. That was my mistake.

I encourage all Seattle youth to share their thoughts on gun violence at so that we can continue our efforts to end gun violence in our city.”

Guns secured at future buyback events will be turned into Peace Bricks, the mayor said.


Washington’s gun bill one of few in the country to pass

gunOLYMPIA — A bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday, making Washington one of the few states in the country to pass new gun legislation.

The bill sponsored by State Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, would require people with felony gun convictions to register in a statewide database twice per year with local law enforcement. This practice, Hope said, would allow police to become more familiar with registered gun offenders.

The registry – similar to a sex offender registry — will only be accessible by law enforcement agents. The database will be used primarily when officers make a Terry Stop, made when a police officer temporarily detains a person upon “reasonable suspicion” that the person has engaged in a crime.

“A common factor in the majority of gun homicides is that perpetrators had previous gun convictions,” Hope said. “If we can stop criminals now, before they escalate their behavior, then we can save lives.”

The law will become effective July 28.

For more information on the bill, click here.

SEATTLE — Seattle’s gun buyback program earlier this year took 750 weapons out of circulation.  No one knows whether those guns would have been used for a crime, but Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday he’s determined to put those firearms to peaceful purposes.

safeseattleAll that steel is going to be melted down into bricks that will include inscriptions from Seattle school kids about ending gun violence.  The program is called “Weapons to Words.”

“This represents to me taking items of violence and being able to re-purpose them as art,” said McGinn.

Student quotations will be chosen by a committee this fall. The contest is open to all public school students, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It’s symbolic, but it’s an opportunity,” said McGinn.

When finished, the steel bricks will be secured in public spots throughout the city.  The program will be funded privately by Schnitzer Steel and Chihuly Studio.

Leslie Chihuly, wife of famed local glass artist Dale Chihuly, attended Tuesday’s announcement.  “When you do these things that involve the creative side of the brain,” said Chihuly, “it’s very difficult to be perpetrating acts of violence at the same time.”

The mayor acknowledges the limits of a program like “Weapons to Words,” but said the discussion it will create among kids is important.

“It’s heart-wrenching when they want to talk about the gun violence that they see in their own lives,” said McGinn.  So if this helps with that, that would be great.”

The mayor also said that a second gun buyback program is planned for this summer, and he promised that  planners have worked out the problems of the last buyback, where it turned into a bit of a gun bazaar on the sidewalk outside the event. Private citizens were offering cash for guns to people there to turn their weapons in.

Local News

Guns blazing: State gun control lobby outspends NRA

gunsOLYMPIA — A new state gun control group has outspent the National Rifle Association in state lobbying this year, the Seattle Times reported.

Earlier this year, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility was set up to combat the gun rights lobby. During the debate on whether to require background checks for more gun sales, the group spent $16,666 while the NRA spent $14,966 in lobbying to not require more background checks on gun sales, the Times said.

According to Public Disclosure Commission documents, the Alliance spent the money on payments to three contract lobbyists and the NRA paid about $8,500 in salary and about $6,400 in personal expenses for one of its staff lobbyists.

The Gun Control Bill 1588 was two votes short in the State House, and never got a vote in the State Senate.