(The Center Square) – Spokane took the final step in passing a local gun control measure, subverting the state’s preemption despite lacking a constitutional review.

The “Gun Violence Prevention for a Safer Spokane” ordinance passed 5-2 on Monday despite constitutional concerns. Councilmember Michael Cathcart said he talked to the city’s Legal Department before Monday’s meeting, which noted they had not reviewed the measures.

The legal department noted it could complete a review but needed at least two weeks to cull through it. Regardless, the ordinance passed Monday night after Councilmember Jonathan Bingle failed to gain enough support to defer the measures until the city completes a review.

“It will only affect responsible gun owners,” Bingle said, “because people who are not responsible gun owners, people who want to commit crimes, couldn’t care less about the law.”

The ordinance creates a new chapter in the Spokane Municipal Code, outlining restrictions against discharging a firearm within city limits and possession of a weapon, whether concealed or open-carry, in “any public building used in connection with meetings of the governing body of the City of Spokane.”

However, the new law goes further in noting that governing body “includes, without limitation, the Spokane City Council, or other policy or rule making body of the City of Spokane, or any committee thereof when the committee, board, or commission acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or takes testimony or public comment.”

The ordinance also restricts possession at “any public assembly venue operated by the city or other municipal or public corporation” and directs the police department to destroy or retain forfeited weapons, ammunition and magazines for use.

However, the legislation does not define “public building,” “public assembly venue,” “public corporation,” or “governing body” beyond saying “without limitation.” Kirk Evans, attorney and president of U.S. LawShield, previously said that the lack of clarity goes too far.

“Typically, when municipalities enact these codes, they would say a public building owned or operated by Spokane or Spokane County,” Evans said.

Still, Spokane never added a definition section or put it through a legal review before passing. Kirk said that omitting the definitions leaves the door open for the city to ban possession altogether in any public building, even if a governing body only used it for one meeting.

That restriction could extend to “any theater, show-house, public hall, public meeting place, public transportation terminal, or any other public building not covered by specific regulations” if the city relies on one of the state’s definitions of a “public building.”

If the city relies on the state’s definition of a “governing body,” the restrictions could include any place used for even a single meeting of any “multimember board, commission, committee, council, or other policy or rule-making body of a public agency, or any committee thereof when the committee acts on behalf of the governing body, conducts hearings, or takes testimony or public comment.”

State law provides that a governing body can only restrict the open carry of a weapon when the meeting is in progress. However, it also includes the word “public agency,” which could include any county, city, school district or other political subdivision of Washington and any of those public entities’ policy groups or sub-agencies, according to one of the state’s definitions.

Several community members testified for and against the gun control measures at Monday’s meeting and a prior opportunity for public testimony. However, Cathcart took time to note the inefficiencies in the local justice system that let violent offenders walk free without bail.

“‘People accused of violent crimes in Spokane County were let out of jail without posting bail 665 times in nearly three years,’” Cathcart said, quoting an October 2023 article from The Spokesman-Review. “‘Among defendants accused of any felony crime in that 33-month period, including nonviolent ones, 2,704 were let out of jail without having to post bail. Of those, 235 were accused of the most serious crimes, class A felonies, which could potentially result in lifetime prison sentences.’”