Curtain Rises on Spokane's Anti-2A Political Theater

Townhall Media

A little more than a month ago, a new state law in Washington took effect prohibiting the open carrying of firearms in a variety of locations including public libraries, zoos, aquariums and public transportation systems. Concealed carry (with a license) is still allowed, so these aren't technically "gun-free zones". Democrat state senator state Javier Valdez has falsely claimed the new law makes these locations "off-limits to weapons", adding that lawmakers are "proactively reducing risks and fostering environments where families can enjoy their time without fear.”


Valdez's falsehoods are bad enough, but now we're starting to see local governments take a page from his script of political theater by imposing similar ordinances of their own. On Monday, the Spokane City Council voted 5-2 in favor of several new gun control measures, including their own limits on open carry.

The proposal approved by council Monday prohibits anyone from bringing a firearm or other weapons into a public venue, such as community centers and the Spokane Arena, except the concealed carrying of a firearm by someone with a valid concealed pistol license. Many venues like the arena independently ban guests from bringing weapons inside.

The rules, which still need the signature of Mayor Lisa Brown to be finalized, prohibit open carry of guns in a public building used for Spokane city government to conduct its meetings. State law already prohibited open carrying in City Hall and other municipal buildings, however.

The ordinance also bans anyone other than law enforcement officers from discharging a firearm anywhere in the city, whether on public or private property, except at a firing range or in order to defend oneself or others. State law already prohibited discharging a firearm in public, but not necessarily on private property.

Finally, the law makes it clear that firearms and ammunition forfeited to the police department shall be either retained for use by the police department or destroyed if they are no longer needed for evidence, prohibiting the auctioning of weapons.


What's the point of passing these new measures, other than to virtue signal opposition to the Second Amendment? Council member Paul Dillon, who authored the new ordinance, calls the measure a "step in the right direction for keeping employees and citizens safe", but councilman Michael Cathcart says his colleague is off-target. 

Cathcart praised Dillon’s “passion” for reducing gun violence, but argued that local government’s attention would be better turned to investing in the criminal justice system and jail capacity. He pointed to the case of Richard S. Smith, an 18-year-old released from custody pending trial after being accused of shooting a man outside a 7-Eleven in February, and who then allegedly assaulted an 83-year-old man in May.

“If we want to truly get a handle on this, there’s a lot of things obviously we can do,” Cathcart said. “But I think primarily it’s in the hands of our justice system.”

Dillon agreed that the local criminal justice system had significant flaws, but argued that a clear local law would make it easier for city police and county prosecutors to charge and secure convictions for those who use guns unsafely in the community.

That's utterly ridiculous. The open carry bans and the new prohibition on Spokane Police selling seized firearms at auction aren't going to impact illegal gun owners or those with criminal intent in the slightest. No would-be armed robber or mass murderer is going to be dissuaded because they're not allowed to openly carry a firearm in a particular setting, and if they want to get their hands on a gun they can easily acquire one on the black market or make one of their own using a 3D printer and a couple of items purchased at their local hardware store. 


What about the discharge ordinance? Again, I doubt this was a big problem to begin with, but I'm confident that the measure isn't going to lead to more convictions in the local court system. If anything, Dillon has just given county prosecutors another charge to dangle as plea bargain bait to defendants, allowing them to avoid prison time or incarceration for serious offenses by pleading down to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully discharging a firearm. 

Honestly, I doubt that any of these new measures are going to have much of an impact, but lawful gun owners are far more likely to feel their limited effects. Cathcart is right: if the criminal justice system is broken, that should be the city council's top priority. Instead, they're pulling back the curtains on an act of political theater designed to make non-gun owners feel safer... while making it more likely for violent offenders to walk away on probation after copping to a reduced charge of unlawful discharge. 

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