Oak Harbor takes a stab at gun regulation
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
December 28, 2012 · Updated 11:16 AM
Oak Harbor City Council took a stand in favor of gun control Tuesday, risking a lawsuit from a gun-rights group.
The issue came to light when the Second Amendment Foundation sent a letter to the city attorney in October, pointing out that several sections of city code violate state law by prohibiting the carrying and display of firearms in city parks and the marina.
Grant Weed, the city attorney, advised the council this week to amend the code to remove the prohibitions. He said the city isn’t allowed to have gun-control rules that are stricter than state or federal law.
The issue came forward at a difficult time, with the horrific school shooting in Connecticut and the president’s call for increased gun control weighing on everyone’s minds.
Councilman Rick Almberg led the way, saying he won’t vote to allow guns in parks. He said some laws regarding firearms are “out-of-step with commonsense.”
“I know we are not consistent with state and federal law, but I’m not going to sit here and say it’s OK to carry guns in our city parks,” he said.
Likewise, Councilman Rick Servatius said he’s a former member of the National Rifle Association and supports people’s rights, but he said he’s not comfortable with people being able to carry guns around in places packed with children.
On the other hand, Councilman Jim Campbell said an argument can be made that parks would be safer from madmen if people are allowed to arm themselves.
“If there’s guns, the cowards won’t show up,” he said.
The council members questioned Oak Harbor Police Chief Ed Green about how police would respond if someone was walking around a park with a rifle, which is legal under state and federal law. He said the officers would contact to the person, at gunpoint, and ask him or her to secure the firearm. He didn’t say what would happen if the person refused.
Weed warned that a guns-rights group could file a lawsuit to force the city to change the code if the council decline to.
In the end, Almberg made a motion to do nothing to amend city code in order to give the state and federal government time to adjust gun laws. The motion passed by a 5-1 vote, with Campbell voting in opposition. Councilwoman Beth Munns was absent.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.