Mayor Nickels: Time for ‘common sense’ steps on gun control


The former mayor is all in on I-594. Here’s his current Facebook profile photo

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels posted the essay below via Facebook earlier this week before Friday’s tragic school shooting in Marysville. In it, he invoked the memory of the “Capitol Hill massacre” in a call for the State of Washington to do much, much more to control guns:

On the morning of March 25 a few years ago, I stood outside of a house in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood just a block from the newspaper route I had as a kid. A gunman had just taken the lives of six innocent young men and women and then killed himself.
It was a senseless and shocking act of violence in the heart of my community. Like the others who gathered at the scene that morning, I felt grief, disbelief and anger. As mayor of the state’s largest city, I asked myself a question: “what could we have done to prevent this tragedy?”

Every week seems to bring fresh examples that beg this difficult question, from the horrific school shootings to a young man senselessly shot dead during an argument at a Rainer Valley intersection.

The rest of his essay and call for improving the state’s gun control is below.

We asked the former mayor — who grew up on Capitol Hill — if he was worried that calls for greater control as the state prepares to vote on I-594 could lead to greater backlash from the pro-gun community and groups aligning to defeat I-594 and support the limits proposed in I-591.

“The Washington State Legislature has failed to take any meaningful action to protect our children and seniors from guns getting into the hands of felons and persons who are mentally disturbed,” Nickels writes. “Sadly this has largely been due to the opposition of the Democratic Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp.”

“Initiative 594 represents exactly what Initiatives were meant to cure — correcting a failure of the Legislature to act to protect the public interest,” Nickels said. He said he shared his story, now, because he believes it is important to take “common sense steps” to “curb the presence of illegal guns in the wrong hands.” I-594 is a start, he writes.

CHS wrote about I-594 and some of the Capitol Hill backers of the initiative to expand background checks earlier this month.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.49.17 PMMayor Nickels’s essay is continued, below.

It doesn’t matter whether you are an elected official, a grieving family, or simply a member of the community, gun violence touches all of our lives. Consider these facts: home with a gun is fives times as likely to have a homicide and a 300% greater chance of having a suicide. Public health experts will tell you simply reducing the availability of guns will save lives.

But in Pennsylvania, one state lawmaker’s response to the school shooting was a proposal to arm school teachers. Arming teachers? That’s not a solution, that’s surrendering to the misguided logic of the gun lobby.

While there is no easy solution to gun violence in our society, there are several commonsense steps we can take right now to start addressing the problem. Simply put, we must do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and disturbed individuals. And that is especially true right here in Washington State.

Unfortunately, we have some of the weakest guns laws of any state in the country. In fact, local communities like Seattle are preempted from passing tougher regulations to deal with proliferation of illegal guns on our streets.

State laws focus on punishing criminals after they commit crimes with guns. They do almost nothing to prevent criminals or deranged individuals from getting guns in the first place. That’s wrong.

The difficult reality from Seattle to Spokane is this: criminals have little trouble getting their hands on guns, but if local communities try to stop them, our hands are tied. That must change.

There are four commonsense steps we can take. They aren’t draconian. They don’t impact responsible, law-abiding gun owners. They are all regulations that other states have passed.
And they will make a difference.

First, close the gun show loophole. This unconscionable technicality allows anyone, including convicted felons, to buy weapons without a background check at any one of the many gun shows held around our state.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) says gun shows supply as much as 30 percent of all firearms sold in violation of federal law. That’s not a loophole, that’s a huge chasm.
Today, 18 other states have already taken a stand by closing this dangerous outlet for criminals by requiring that gun shows conduct the same commonsense background checks as licensed firearm dealers.

If Missouri, South Dakota, North Carolina and Colorado have closed the loophole, why can’t Washington?

Second, ban assault guns. Law-abiding citizens don’t need AK 47s. In Seattle, our police officers have seized 140 of these military-style assault weapons over the past five years. Why in the world should the men and women we rely on to keep our homes and businesses safe face this kind of firepower on the streets? Seven other states have already passed assault weapons bans. Washington should be number eight.

Third, require gun locks and safe gun storage. When someone is suicidal (or homicidal) the trigger lock or secure gun case can give a moment of pause, perhaps long enough for the moment of danger to pass. Not to mention making it harder for a thief to turn your own weapon against you.

Finally, collect information statewide on where crime guns are being purchased. Many gun dealers follow the rules but some flaunt the rules knowing the ATF only inspects each dealer on average every 22 years. Seattle is already using local gun-trace data to identify the source for gun traffickers and “straw purchasers” (people who buy guns for people who aren’t allowed to). Collecting this information across the state will help law enforcement agencies in all of our communities target the bad players.

Would any of these steps have prevented the tragedy on Capitol Hill? We can’t say. But we do know that taken together, these commonsense steps will save innocent lives from being lost to gun violence on the streets in our communities.

It is long past time our leaders in Olympia take a stand against the spread of illegal guns in our state. Let your legislators know that it is time to give our communities the tools we need to make our streets and neighborhoods safer.

We can’t keep answering the question of gun violence with a shrug. We can make a difference. All it takes is the will. We can take the first common sense step by voting for Initiative 594.

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20 thoughts on “Mayor Nickels: Time for ‘common sense’ steps on gun control

  1. Now, really, tell us all for real, is another the answer, and will it stop anything at all?
    If not then why?
    Won’t anti-gun laws simply take away rights and make us LESS SAFE from crazies?
    Then that pesky 2nd Amendment becomes just a hollow empty shell.

    • I think you are confusing the terms “anti-gun laws” versus “background checks”. These are not interchangeable. An anti-gun law would be along the lines of the 1994 ‘Ban’ on assault weapons owned by private citizens. Background checks do not ban weapons for people with little/no criminal background and are mentally “fit” for owning a firearm. It is already known that over 30% of guns owned by citizens in the United States are purchased at gun shows, where little to no registration/ background checks/ over-site is required.
      THIS IS NOT TAKING AWAY YOUR GUN(S). That is called a ban. The idea is to prevent those unfit to own a firearm from owning a firearm. It is not a cure-all, but we have to do something and not change the channel until another tragedy hits.

      • You’re more than a million times more likely to see someone fail a background check due to a clerical error than to see a felon turned away from a gun store. The Brady law is a failure, fraught with errors and, as Clinton proved, prone to abuse.

      • I honestly don’t see how it’s salvageable. It sure hasn’t made any discernable difference to the crime rate, but it HAS helped facilitate municipalities that wanted to seize guns identify who has bought one. But let’s require people to have a background check before they type on a public forum, you know, because.

      • Thank you, Miles. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Gun owners/NRA types see “anti-gun” in every piece of legislation, whether sensible or not. They are really kind of paranoid on this issue.

      • I firmly believe you can thank Sen. Diane Feinstein for that paranoia:

        The pro gun lobby since has vehemently dug its heels in to ANY legislation sensible or not, and can you blame them when one of the biggest voices for the gun control reveals this as her ultimate goal?

        As a politically moderate gun owner, I am not opposed to sensible laws at face value but even I get leery of giving up any ground when one of the pro gun control biggest voices make statements like this.

        And really that is the issue with almost everything in our current political climate, the “crazies” on either side of the issues have too much of a voice, I also find some of the NRA’s positions just as appalling and stupid as the statement above but at least they are on my side.

        The extremists on the issues, in either direction, prevent sensible people in the middle from engaging in any sensible dialog…

      • I’m glad that there are at least a few reasonable gun owners (like you) who do not oppose sensible measures, like universal background checks.

        That video of Dianne Feinstein was filmed years ago, and she is only one of 100 senators. Her admittedly-extreme statement about confiscating guns does not justify all the paranoia that is rampant among most gun owners.

  2. Note that criminals and the insane will do whatever they wish. Laws impact only good honest citizens.
    This article makes claims that cannot possibly be substantiated, saying this law WILL make us all safer. Probably the opposite is true.
    Governments always want to restrict citizens from guns. Thus our wise forefathers placed the 2nd Amendment, and right after free speech.
    Note also that the restrictions never end. More and more restrictions slide us farther and farther down the slippery slope to total disarmament of all citizens. Do we really want to live in a country with that much government power? That’s why out forebears left England and created our great Constitution. And the attached Bill of Rights. No other country has it like the USA. Let’s keep it that way.
    NO on I-594.

    • Hey. Buddy. Do some research. You are making the same mistake in interpreting as all other gun advocates.
      The 2nd Amendment was written with the intent to protect citizens from tyrannical takeovers, be it government or hegemonic. Protection from the state is a vastly different intention then protecting us from each other.
      While gun laws are not a cure-all, it is the necessary step to protect ourselves from ourselves while we make bigger cultural and societal changes surrounding firearms, gun culture, and finding better ways to nurture the mentally and socially ailing. We need to address the big elephant in the room that is alienation of our children and socially outcast. Enforcing background checks and gun transfers might help get the conversation rolling while protecting each other during the process.

    • I’m a 2nd amendment supporter but I also support common sense controls that keep everyone safe. The reaction to these incidents cannot be to do nothing.

      Secondly, I am troubled but the argument that we need guns to maintain our freedom. The government is now conducting mass surveillance and arrests citizens at will then pressures them into guilt pleas. These are major assaults on our Constitution that are a reality today. We, as a people, need to come together to address our problems politically without relying on guns as a backstop for our democracy.

  3. When people push a indicative like I-594 and they feel they have to lie to get it to pass that should tell you something! 18 pages of rules and paper work about many things besides background checks this is a Trojan horse for full blown gun registration. They say it isn’t but there is no way for it to work and for the police to be able to tell who owns the firearm unless they create a full gun registration to compare owner ship for transfers that is as plain as can be. The majority of law enforcement are against I-594.
    Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS)
    Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA)
    Bill Burris, Spokesman, Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association
    Joe Dawson, President, Washington State Retired Deputy Sheriffs & Police Officers Association (WSRDSPOA)
    Sheriff John Hunt — Adams County
    Sheriff Steven Keane – Benton County
    Sheriff Brian Burnett — Chelan County
    Sheriff Bill Benedict – Clallam County
    Sheriff Rocky MIller — Columbia County
    Sheriff Mark Nelson — Cowlitz County
    Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal – Douglas County
    Sheriff Pete Warner — Ferry County
    Sheriff Richard Lathim – Franklin County
    Sheriff Ben Keller — Garfield County
    Sheriff Thomas Jones – Grant County
    Sheriff Rick Scott – Grays Harbor County
    Sheriff Rick McComas — Klickitat County
    Sheriff Steve Mansfield — Lewis County
    Sheriff Wade Magers – Lincoln County
    Sheriff Frank Rogers — Okanogan County
    Sheriff Scott Johnson — Pacific County
    Sheriff Alan Botzheim — Pend Orielle County
    Sheriff Dave Brown, Skamania County
    Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich — Spokane County
    Sheriff Kendle Allen – Stevens County
    Sheriff John Snaza – Thurston County
    Sheriff Mark Howie – Wahkiakum County
    Sheriff John Turner – Walla Walla County
    Sheriff Brett Myers — Whitman County
    If anyone should know the police that work with it everyday will know.
    Say NO to I-594 .

    • I WISH 594 was a real step toward universal gun licensing and registration, which we need and which most industrialized nations including Canada already have (and last I checked, Canada was hardly a totalitarian dictatorship).

      But 594 is nothing of the sort. It’s a simple measure to keep the marginal types (mostly the mentally ill and those who are buying on impulse) from having too-easy access. Yes, those who are bound and determined to get a firearm will find a way to circumvent it, and that will need to be addressed by future legislation. But it’s a start. It won’t take away a single gun from anyone. I’ve never seen such a paranoid campaign in my life (I’m 67) than the hysterics against 594. And no, I’m not going to be swayed by a bunch of right-wing, racist cops. Sorry.

    • I see nothing wrong with state registration of all guns….in fact, I think it’s a good idea. Why do you oppose this if you have nothing to hide?

  4. Universal background checks which will necessitate an expansion of the state pistol registration database to include all firearms will do absolutely nothing to prevent crime. This will not prevent mass shootings. This will not prevent school shootings. This will not prevent gang violence. This will simply introduce thousands of words for courts to interpret and reinterpret and further impair the rights of Washington state citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves or the state. This will place an undue burden on law enforcement agencies and detract from their ability to investigate other much more serious crimes. This will also tie up our courts and prisons with petty misdemeanors when we could be using those resources to try and punish more serious crimes. This will cost the state taxpayers money and offer no appreciable benefit. This will cost firearms businesses and customers more money as well.

  5. Liberals…..they will backstabbing fellow Americans and take away our Liberties…

    …..but will give the work to illegal aliens.

  6. “Keeping guns from the crazies”.

    That happened in CH happened because of MONEY.


    Simple. When a gun collector gets ratted on for something, anything, the cops take all his guns. Does not matter if he did something wrong or not.

    Ian Stawiki was being reported on, the cops did nothing. Why? Why in this environment of “man must be arrested” whenever the cops are called for a couple having a loud argument and that includes them hauling out every gun in the house too?

    Ian Stawiki had “a few guns” – not an entire collection.

    Now, check the RCWs. What will it say?

    It will say that when the police take guns that are not directly taken as states’ evidence in a crime, that gun CAN BE AUCTIONED OFF.

    That’s right. Go look it up.

    Soooo Mr. Gun Collector will be hauled off and every gun taken knowing that it will cost more in lawyer fees to get them back. A typical hunting rifle will land at least 500 bucks. An exceptional rifle can go into thousands.


    And that’s why you have a “Capitol Hill Massacre”. Because of money. Because Stawiki’s family was trying to warn the cops about this. Stawiki even had a history of domestic violence. Under the Lautenburg Amendment, that means no more guns. Need not even be a felony conviction – need not even be a conviction. All the more reason to have acted no?

    At best rolling him up would not have even netted enough to pay the cops carrying it out.

    So, think about that.

    Meanwhile, maybe if we took all of the non-violent offenders out of the prisons and filled them up with violent offenders that could help. But you can’t have a disarmament agenda without violent felons and nut jobs running about, can’t we?