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Originally published June 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 10, 2008 at 12:37 AM

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Seattle gun ban ordered drawn up by Mayor Greg Nickels

After a shooting at the Northwest Folklife festival injured three people, Mayor Greg Nickels will prohibit guns at Seattle Center, parks...

Seattle Times staff reporter

After a shooting at the Northwest Folklife festival injured three people, Mayor Greg Nickels will prohibit guns at Seattle Center, parks, community centers and city-run buildings.

On Monday, Nickels announced he had signed an executive order, which does not require City Council approval, directing employees to draft a plan in 30 days to create a "gun-free policy" on city property. He has not set a date for the prohibition to take effect.

"Our parks, our community centers and our public events are safer without guns," Nickels said at a news conference with Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. "At many properties, including City Hall, you can bring a gun if you have a concealed-weapons permit. Under this order, people with concealed weapons will be asked to give up their weapon or leave."

The city does not have the authority to arrest or fine people for bringing a gun onto city property. Only the state can enact laws governing firearms, and the mayor acknowledged the city could face a legal challenge.

The city can, however, charge violators with trespassing.

Law-enforcement officers would be exempt.

Nickels said the city will start by posting signs in buildings such as City Hall. He said he hopes the city will not require pat-downs or metal detectors in city buildings, but suggested those measures as a possibility for organizers of events such as Northwest Folklife and Bumbershoot at Seattle Center. Northwest Folklife organizers declined to comment on the mayor's announcement.

Under Washington state law, cities cannot go beyond state laws restricting firearms. Nickels says a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling in a case between a gun-show organizer and the city of Sequim indicates Seattle has the authority to prohibit guns on city property.

In that lawsuit, the Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association sued Sequim after city officials tried to regulate how guns could be sold at a miniconvention center the city owned.

"They said, 'Are we regulating firearm sale within the city of Sequim?' And we said, 'No, we are regulating what happens on our own property,' à la city of Seattle," said Craig Ritchie, city attorney for Sequim.

Ritchie says he believes the state Supreme Court ruling in his case opens the door for Seattle to prohibit guns on city property.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna's office does not know of any cases in which the state has challenged a city for pre-empting a firearms law. It would be more likely for an individual to sue, a spokeswoman said.

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Two weeks ago, a young couple were hit by stray gunfire and a third man was injured after a fight broke out at Northwest Folklife at Seattle Center, which the city runs and owns. Sarah Thorsnes, a 21-year-old who was shot in the thigh, said she appreciates the mayor's efforts but does not support his prohibition.

"It's putting a strain on people who have a right to own guns and should know how to use them properly," said Thorsnes, who lives in Renton. "I still stand behind needing to look at mental health as a problem rather than banning guns from people who have a right to have them and use them properly."

Prosecutors say the man who has been charged in the shooting, Clinton Chad Grainger, has a history of drug addiction and schizophrenia. Grainger obtained a concealed-weapon permit from the Snohomish County sheriff's office in 2007.

Nickels has urged the Legislature to pass a law denying guns to anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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