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Originally published Friday, February 12, 2010 at 7:51 PM

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Judge's ruling ends Seattle parks gun ban

The rule banning firearms in Seattle parks was tossed out Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, who said the city...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The rule banning firearms in Seattle parks was tossed out Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, who said the city cannot pre-empt state law.

The city now has 30 days to remove the 116 metal signs, which are about 1 by 1-½ feet in size and show a handgun inside a red circle, with a red line crossing out the gun. In all-capital letters there is the warning: "FIREARMS PROHIBITED."

Assistant City Attorney Gary Keese said, "We will comply with the court order and are weighing with the mayor and City Council the options for appeal."

Mayor Mike McGinn issued a one-paragraph, late-afternoon statement that said, "I am disappointed in today's (Friday's) ruling. Cities should have the right to restrict guns in playground, pools and community centers where children are present ... It's time for the state Legislature to change that law."

The challenge to the parks rule that was instituted by former Mayor Greg Nickels — it was not an ordinance — was brought by five individuals, as well as the Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and the National Rifle Association.

One of the individuals in the challenge was Winnie Chan, of Seattle, described in the lawsuit as a 36-year-old parole and probation officer with the state.

The suit said she enjoyed walking in Lincoln and Discovery parks and the Alki Beach area, all subject to the parks firearms rule that took effect last October.

Chan said her job required her to supervise offenders released from jail.

"Because this job has the potential to be very dangerous, she is required to be armed and has received substantial training in all aspects of firearm use," said the lawsuit. "Ms. Chan sometimes carries a personal firearm when she is off duty in part because of the likelihood that she will encounter people she has apprehended in her line of work who may wish her harm."

Another individual who was part of the suit was Raymond Carter, 44, of Seattle, who was described as a past co-chair of the Seattle Pride Parade and was the founding president of the Seattle Chapter of Pink Pistols/Cease Fear.

The suit said about Carter: "He routinely carries a firearm when he is lawfully permitted to do so because he strongly believes that as an openly gay man, he is more susceptible to becoming a victim of a hate-related crime but, because of health issues, he does not feel that he is physically capable of running away."

The suit said that Carter used to regularly go walking at Lincoln Park, Volunteer Park and Alki Beach.

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The cost to the city in defending the parks rule was minimized because the Seattle law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe had said it would provide free legal defense for the rule.

The law firm also is representing the city in federal court, where the constitutionality of the rule is being challenged.

Steven Fogg, one of the attorneys who represented the individuals and groups challenging the parks rule, said he never understood why Nickels went ahead with the ban, especially after state Attorney General Rob McKenna said state law pre-empts local authority to adopt firearms regulations. Fogg said the city was warned there would be a legal challenge.

"I think it's a question of stubbornness," he said.

The parks gun ban had a nasty political turn in the mayoral election race between McGinn and Joe Mallahan.

Just as ballots began landing in voters' mailboxes, McGinn's campaign launched "robocalls" accusing Mallahan of "siding with the NRA" because he questioned the wisdom of the parks gun ban.

Mallahan said what he questioned was the potential legal fees in defending the parks rule, but as long as a private law firm was willing to pick up those costs, the ban was fine with him.

Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for Seattle Parks, said the signs cost about $2,500 to make. They were bolted onto posts as crews made their regular rounds.

She said she didn't know what would happen to the signs.

Perhaps collector's items?

"I'm not sure who'd be interested," said Potter.

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com

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