Shirts and shoes required, and guns prohibited?
Mayor Mike McGinn plans to unveil a program Monday to encourage Seattle businesses to go “gun free” by not allowing customers to carry firearms inside their establishments.
About a dozen businesses have already signed up for a “Gun Free Zone” decal, including Cafe Racer, where a customer shot and killed four others last year. Other participants include Neumos, Oddfellows Cafe & Bar, Sweatbox Yoga and Cupcake Royale, with more expected in the coming days.
“This is something businesses can do to be on the front lines of preventing gun violence,” said Ralph Fascitelli, board president of Washington CeaseFire, a gun-control group that approached McGinn three months ago with the idea and has since been recruiting participants. “It’s a good incremental step.”
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Fascitelli said the program won’t stop a determined killer such as the Cafe Racer shooter. But he said that taking guns out of the equation could prevent some arguments from ending in tragedy.
Gun-rights activist Alan Gottlieb dismissed that line of thinking, noting how few people get fatally shot in crimes of passion in Seattle businesses.
“Let’s be realistic about this,” said Gottlieb, the founder of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.
“If these businesses want to turn off their customer base, I guess they can do it,” he added. “It’s a free society.”
A McGinn spokesman would not comment until after the Monday news conference, which Washington CeaseFire will host.
A news release that will be sent Monday quotes the mayor as saying that “the police department regularly enforces trespass laws when a visitor to a business violates that business’ rules. We will continue to do so, and I thank these businesses for standing up for the safety of their customers.”
The program is based on laws allowing businesses to set conditions of entry such as requiring shirts and shoes. In Washington, local governments are prohibited from directly setting their own gun laws.
The program is a unilateral executive action by the mayor’s office, in coordination with Washington CeaseFire. The Seattle City Council has not yet been briefed.
Bruce Harrell, the chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology, said McGinn’s time would be better spent trying to change the state law that bars local governments from setting gun laws.
Harrell, a candidate for mayor earlier this year, said the Gun Free Zone program “is not going to hurt things. I just don’t see how it’s going to make a huge difference.”
But Cafe Racer owner Kurt Geissel said it will do something.
“It sends a message that it’s not cool to just walk around with a gun all the time because bad things happen,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s really, really bad.”
Spokesmen for the Association of Washington Business and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce could not be reached for comment.
The new program represents the latest chapter in a long-running debate over gun-free zones, particularly in businesses.
In Washington, guns are prohibited near some schools and other areas — policies that gun-rights supporters see as doing more harm than good because, they say, a good guy with a gun is the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun.
In 2009, departing Mayor Greg Nickels issued an executive order banning guns at public parks and community centers — a move that became a campaign issue when McGinn accused rival Joe Mallahan of “siding with the NRA” by questioning the costs of defending the ban in court.
The ban was overturned a few months later because of the state law that prohibits local governments from pre-empting state gun laws.
McGinn is now running for re-election against state Sen. Ed Murray, who did not return a message seeking comment.
National gun-control groups have for years sought more gun-free zones. In 2010, several groups presented about 30,000 signatures to Starbucks corporate headquarters in the hopes of getting the coffee chain to prohibit guns. Starbucks has declined, citing open-carry laws. Washington is among open-carry states.
Earlier this month, open-carry activists held a “Starbucks Appreciation Day” to support the company and the right to legally carry guns openly. The day caused some controversy, however, as a Starbucks store in Newtown, Conn., closed five hours early out of respect for the victims of a December 2012 shooting at a nearby school, store officials said.
The announcement of the new program, set for 10 a.m. at Oddfellows, comes after a week that focused on violence in Seattle.
Last Monday, a 31-year-old man shot a Metro Transit bus driver before being killed by police. On Thursday, McGinn announced the allocation of an additional $400,000 to extend summer police patrols through the end of the year.
On Monday, organizers and participants will discuss the new program and show off the decal, which states: “No Guns Allowed Inside. We are proud participants in Washington CeaseFire and City of Seattle’s GUN FREE ZONE.”
Fascitelli said he hopes the event will spur more businesses to join the program. Organizers also plan to reach out to other cities, he said.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal