Seattle ramps up plans to strengthen gun control laws

Seattle ramps up plans to strengthen gun control laws »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle is ramping up plans to get hundreds of thousands of signatures to change state law all in an effort to strengthen gun control.

The Seattle City Council wants to decide the fate of firearms at the local level. State law says the city can't, but from the council president to the chief of police, nearly every city leader wants something to change.

In the often slow-moving debate over gun control, big changes take small steps. And the first step for Seattle was a meeting on Wednesday.

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell is leading the charge to gather signatures to change state law and let cities decide how best to control guns.

"I think you can see how overreaching it is. I mean, it's a clear preemption," he said.

The council has hinted that it wants to bolster gun-shop reporting, potentially restrict high capacity magazines and start databases to track purchases.

Even Seattle Police Chief John Diaz supports a number of the reforms.

"We would like to stop access to felons having weapons, to mentally-ill individuals having weapons, to kids having access to weapons," he said.

The problem is the law at the state level and in Congress.

"In the past, we haven't had the votes in Olympia or Washington, D.C.," said the city's legislative director Craig Engelking. "The votes are just simply not there."

On the national level, Pres. Barack Obama has made the first overtures to drastically restrict firearm access. He says enough is enough, and wants a commission to give him a practical plan by January.

"The vast majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war," Obama said.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead the commission that will focus on mental health reforms and also push to bring back the the assault weapons ban.

While some of the Seattle City Council's reforms go farther than the president, the council wants the public to rise up and start the process to change the law. They can't wait for state lawmakers, and they don't want to wait anymore.

"We don't think that we would win in Olympia," said Harrell.

The city's board has the involvement of both King County mental health experts and the school district. But the initiative process to change the law will take more than 240,000 signatures.