As regular readers of this page know, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in 2008 ignored state law and the advice of the state’s attorney general and created so-called “gun-free” zones in public recreational facilities within the city. These restrictions applied to all lawful carry, including by those with a state-issued concealed carry license. A state court, however, soundly rejected Seattle’s theory that the state’s comprehensive firearms preemption law did not apply because the ban only affected city owned or controlled property. As the trial judge noted in her opinion, “If I were to accept the City’s argument … [n]othing would prevent the City from preventing people from being on the street with their firearms, being on the waterway with their firearms, being on any part of a park with their firearms, or being in any other place that the City of Seattle has control over.”
Nickels’s successor, Mike McGinn, nevertheless took up the cause with an appeal, but the trial court’s ruling was affirmed, and the state’s highest court later refused to hear the case [http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2017703405_gunban09m.html].
Despite this series of defeats (or perhaps because of them) Mayor McGinn remains committed to the vision of a defenseless Seattle. The mayor is now teaming up with a local gun control organization to establish new “gun free zones” in the city’s private businesses. Businesses are being provided with stickers, designed at the expense of the gun control group, and encouraged to post them to warn visitors that those in possession of firearms will be considered trespassers.
The business owners at least in theory retain the choice as to whether or not to post their premises. Nevertheless, the mayor’s partnership with a private organization that claims it is engaged in a “culture war” against firearms and their owners sends a strong message to those whose livelihoods depend on operating a business in the city. Whether compulsory or not, the officially sanctioned view is clearly anti-gun.
The president of the gun control group involved acknowledged that these so-called gun free zones are not going to stop a “determined killer.” Yet in statements to the press, he invoked the typical anti-gunner’s paranoid view of his neighbors and fellow citizens as would-be murderers whose irresistible impulses to kill are thwarted only by the absence of readily-available firearms. The group’s website also claims the measure is intended to “change the conversation around gun violence.” Apparently, however, the only word Mayor McGinn and his gun control sidekicks are interested in having with Seattle residents who would exercise their constitutional rights to bear arms is “No!”
Perhaps not coincidentally, this public-private partnership to restrict constitutional rights comes on the heels of a failed campaign to pressure Starbucks into instituting a strict no-firearm policy in its retail outlets. Like most businesses serving the public in most locations, Starbucks simply defers to local law regarding the carrying of firearms in its restaurants. This has attracted the wrath of some anti-gun activists who apparently consider coffee houses an especially crucial theatre of conflict in their self-proclaimed “culture war.”
Of course, just as businesses have the prerogative to determine terms of entry on their premises, customers have the prerogative of determining who gets their business. If the Starbucks example is any indication, freedom-friendly businesses have nothing to fear, as the coffee chain’s profits have surged following anti-gunners’ insistent calls for boycotts.