When city council members in Bellingham, Washington introduced an emergency powers declaration that supposedly allowed the mayor to suspend firearms and ammunition sales and the mere possession of a firearm, it ignited a firestorm of controversy that ultimately led to council members vocally backing away from the proposal and making excuses for why it was offered to begin with.
Seattle talk show host Jason Rantz joins me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about his efforts to get the word out about Bellingham’s proposed gun grab and the outpouring of opposition from local gun owners that has hopefully but an end to the gun ban plans in the Seattle suburb.
Rantz first publicized the action in Bellingham on Sunday night, a little more than 24 hours before the city council meeting was supposed to take place. By Monday afternoon, he’d heard from city councilman Michael Lilliquist, who told Rantz that council members didn’t have a chance to look over the proposed emergency declaration before it was added to their agenda.
The section of the existing municipal code concerning firearms sales and alcohol sales was written over 50 years ago. It’s been on the books since 1977. I guess they must have been thinking about mass riots or something. We have asked the city attorneys to look at that older part of the code. Based on my own research this weekend, this kind of emergency powers language is found in other city codes, and it is perhaps even more common that this kind of language does not appear in the municipal code. I’d like to review this issue fully, and right now my focus is on emergency relief efforts.
Not to be shifting blame, but the Bellingham city council did not see this ordinance before it was published. The ordinance was written at the direction of the mayor, and the writing of the ordinance is the work of city staff members, not political leaders. If you look at the draft ordinance, you see that the Bellingham mayor’s concern was with 1) improving our current emergency command structure and 2) adding an ability to create essential public facilities (e.g., temporary hospital) in an emergency. In that, I fully support the mayor’s efforts. That is what the proposed ordinance is about: emergency command structure and essential public facilities. My guess is that staff focused on that urgent project, and did not pay attention to older parts of the same law.
The proposed ordinance that we will vote on does not add or change any part of the law concerning gun sales or alcohol sales. Staff included the whole section of the code, i.e., the proposed new parts alongside the 50-year-old parts, to show full context for the changes. I don’t think staff thought about it before publication. It was not the focus of people’s attention. It’s not was the city council is being asked to consider.
Our attention and efforts are focused on providing emergency relief that our community has asked for — e.g., deferred tax payments, no penalties for late payments of water bills, emergency housing, support for local small businesses, etc. We are keeping essential government services such as police and fire protection running, while adjusting in ways to keep our emergency responders safe. We are coordinating with service providers, like the hospital and local food bank, to keep things moving while keeping people at safe distances from each other. Our minds are on these and many other tasks.
The mayor has been clear that he does NOT support restrictions on guns sales or alcohol as an emergency action, and I agree with him.
While I and other gun owners appreciate the clarification from Councilman Lilliquist, the fact of the matter is that if the city council had no intent on imposing restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms with their emergency ordinance, they really should have taken a look at the old language before they included it in their agenda for Monday’s meeting. I understand council members may have a lot on their plates at the moment, but their lack of oversight led to unnecessary concern and confusion for residents, who were rightfully upset about the language in the emergency ordinance.
Also on today’s show, we have the story of an armed citizen in Indianapolis who got the jump on a pair of home invaders, as well as a look at the move by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who is taking the position that gun stores are non-essential businesses and should be shut down during the current emergency.
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