Spokane eyes local gun control despite preemption, concerns over legal challenge



(The Center Square) – Spokane just got one step closer to passing local gun control after the legislation reached its City Council on Monday; however, some aspects could pose a legal challenge.

Councilmember Paul Dillon’s “Gun Violence Prevention for a Safer Spokane” ordinance could allow the city to enforce certain open and concealed carry restrictions while almost entirely banning the discharge of a firearm within city limits.

A draft of the gun control measures reached a committee early this month, but the City Council got its first touch on Monday. The legislation could pass in the coming weeks despite the state almost entirely preempting local gun control and concerns over constitutionality.

“The Second Amendment starts with the words, well regulated,” said Dena Ogden, a mother and associate editor of The Spruce. “So, there’s always been room for these kinds of [gun control], reasonable, common sense guidelines when it comes to the right to bear arms.”

Ogden noted during the meeting that, since 2020, firearms have been the leading cause of death among infants, children and teens, but data supporting that conclusion is in dispute. She said Dillon’s ordinance takes a step in reversing this trend; however, data also suggests that a large number of those deaths are unintentional and happen while the shooter/child is playing with or showing off the firearm.

During Monday’s briefing session, Dillon said city staff had tightened up the language since the committee meeting, specifically around discharge. Opting to ban discharge within city limits altogether, with the exception of sanctioned firearm ranges, law enforcement and self-defense.

The prior draft only restricted discharge within 500-feet of a building containing humans and animals, with the exceptions listed earlier as well.

Nevertheless, shifts to the language did not extend to areas of concern over possession in a venue owned by a public corporation, which is not defined. Nor did the city clarify its definition of a public building when used for a meeting of a governing body.

Currently, the language could ban the open carry of a weapon in any public building used for the meeting of a governing body, including a restaurant or any other setting, even if it was only used once.

Councilmember Michael Cathcart raised an amendment that would impose some responsibility on the city to protect its citizens’ right to carry. It would require Spokane to provide lock boxes in every city-owned building where firearms are banned for staff and elected officials to store their weapons. Additionally, it would hold the city liable for any loss or damages.

“The idea is, people just have the right to carry,” Cathcart said during the briefing session. “They have the right to protect themselves, and they shouldn’t have to set aside that right just because they’re visiting City Hall or they work at City Hall … They should be able to be protected regardless.”

While the amendment ultimately failed, Councilmember Kitty Klitzke said she’s interested in working the language into the ordinance without an amendment. She was concerned the amendment could hold the city liable for providing lock boxes in all public facilities.

Data included in the ordinance claims that, according to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, gun violence costs the state an average of $11.8 billion annually. That figure includes medical bills, mental health support as well as associated costs for law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

The ordinance also states that 16 people died in the City of Spokane as a result of a firearm in 2023, with 44 shooting incidents already taking place this year. Six of those that happened this year resulted in injuries from an accidental discharge, with nine accounting for suicide attempts.

Resident Dennis Flynn testified, among others, against the gun control measures during the meeting.

He pointed to data from the Gun Violence Archive that the Council used to justify the measures, noting that while there have been 252 mass shootings nationwide in 2024, none occurred in Washington, Oregon or Idaho.

“Take it for what you think it’s worth, but going through the cities on that website that had more than one mass shooting,” Flynn said, “26 out of 30 of them are democrat or progressive-controlled cities that have arguably the most strict gun laws already.”

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