Lynnwood City Council divided as resolution to support gun control bill fails 3-4

Heated debate among Lynnwood city councilmembers took center stage during the April 11 business meeting when a resolution was introduced to support gun control legislation now being debated by Washington State Legislature. 

Councilmember George Hurst proposed that the council issue a resolution supporting state House Bill 1240, which prohibits manufacturing, importing and distributing any assault weapon. Hurst asked that the council publicly address the ban in a symbolic show of support. The proposal failed by a 3-4 vote, with Councilmembers Josh Binda, Shirley Sutton and Hurst in favor and Patrick Decker, Jim Smith, Council President Shannon Sessions and Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby against. 

Lynnwood City Councilmember George Hurst’s proposed resolution was debated by councilmembers for about an hour

Hurst began by acknowledging that public safety was a priority for the City of Lynnwood. He stated that so far in 2023, 131 mass shootings had taken place in the U.S. and the deadliest among them were perpetrated by assault weapons. 

“In the United States, guns are now the leading cause of death for children and teens,” Hurst said. 

Hurst’s proposed resolution was immediately seconded by Binda. Later, Hurst spoke about how he was motivated to do something after hearing a speaker asking faith-led individuals to “stop the dithering” about what they personally could do to make positive change. Hurst said he resolved to take action after the March 27 Nashville shooting that killed three children and three adults. Aside from introducing the resolution, Hurst stated that he also was making efforts to direct ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding toward mental health treatment in schools, something he discussed with the Lynnwood Human Services Commission. He asked that councilmembers support ARPA-funded programs for mental health treatment regardless of their opinion on the gun issue. 

Decker restated many of his arguments from the previous week’s council work session: that the ban was unconstitutional, would more negatively affect people in disadvantaged communities and would not lower crime. 

Councilmember Patrick Decker spoke at length about his opposition to the resolution.

He also introduced new arguments, stating that HB1240 was not an “assault weapons ban” and instead a ban on any automatic gun with capacity for seven or more rounds. Six bullets, he contended, were not sufficient to protect a family from three burglars. “Yes, no bazookas, no machine guns, no mortars, we agree. But reasonable weapons to defend our families, as has been shown, is very effective. Leave us that because we need that,” Decker said. 

Additionally, he said that criminals with knowledge that a home contained a gun were less likely burglarize the home. 

“People are dying by guns. Children are dying from guns. It’s inescapable. And by inescapable, I mean we can’t argue that it doesn’t happen,” Decker continued. “How do we stop that? How do we ‘stop dithering’? I don’t think taking away citizens’ rights is the first step towards solving the problem.” He went on to say that the ban would make the problem worse as it did not address the root of the issue– that criminals felt they could act in evil ways without a threat.

Hurst countered by saying that assault rifles were used in seven of the deadliest shootings of the last decade and more than 85% mass shootings with four or more deaths were committed with assault rifles. He also specified that this was not an effort to ban all guns and that Decker’s statement that the ban was unconstitutional was an opinion, not a fact. 

Sessions said she wouldn’t be voting for the resolution. “Regardless of how each of us feel about guns, assault rifles and the like, it’s inappropriate for this council to pass a resolution we have zero control over,” the council president said, adding that she had spoken to Hurst about setting precedents on controversial topics. 

Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby (top row-left) and Council President Shannon Sessions (bottom row-right) attended over Zoom. City Attorney Lisa Marshall (bottom row-left) also attended remotely.

Altamirano-Crosby then asked Hurst to clarify the action he was requesting, since the State Senate had already approved SB1240. Binda said that the city had gone “beyond Lynnwood” a number of times and made its opinions known even if it did not change the actual laws. 

When it was his turn to speak again, Hurst followed up with an example of Lynnwood’s history of symbolic resolutions, citing the council’s 2021 letter asking Snohomish County to refrain from taking action on HB1590, which permitted a sales tax increase.

Binda speaks about his experience

Binda spoke about his experience with the 2016 Mukilteo shooting in which three Class of 2015 Kamiak High School graduates were killed during a house party. 

“Me and a couple friends were on our way to that house [where the shooting took place]… When we were a few blocks away, when we got a phone call and on the phone, we hear people screaming. Screaming like, ‘don’t come, don’t come, there’s people shot, something’s going on’,” Binda continued by talking about how the shooter, someone he knew, was easily able to purchase an AR-15 and that the purpose of this bill was to reduce accessibility to such weapons. 

Sutton recommended that members of the council take a step back from the emotion of the issue and requested that the public be invited to a public safety discussion as it would be preferable to “finger-pointing and naysaying.” 

The discussion grew heated during debate and councilmembers began to speak over each other.

“George, read Robert’s Rules of Order and keep your mouth shut when I’m talking,” Councilmember Jim Smith said after Hurst interjected to correct Smith about a false statement. 

Prior to the debate, six members of the public voiced their opinions about the resolution — four speaking in favor and two against. Two of the individuals supporting the measure were members of the city’s human services commission.

Councilmember Jim Smith debates the issue.

Smith said that gun bans would only negatively affect the “good guys,” not the “bad guys.” He also disapproved of Hurst’s actions, accusing him of privately colluding with the human services commission to push members to make public comments. Hurst denied the allegation, saying that he spoke to the commission exclusively about using ARPA funding for mental health treatment in schools. 

In other public comments, one father spoke about the prevalence of drug use in Lynnwood and urged councilmembers to do something. He said that police did not resolve the situation and he felt unsafe for himself and his family in Lynnwood, particularly after an instance where he inhaled fentanyl smoke and felt unwell. 

Lynnwood City Council candidate Robert Leutwyler said he supported the assault weapons ban resolution but focused his comments on middle housing.

Robert Leutwyler, a candidate for Lynnwood City Council Position 7, spoke in opposition to claims made at the previous work session about missing middle housing.

“Missing middle housing is not an extreme agenda, nor does it represent the wholesale destruction of our neighborhoods,” he said. “Even the AARP promotes the benefits of missing middle housing. It is about allowing all the various types of housing that used to be permitted and prevalent in this country.” Leutwyler went on to state that single-family zoning was a historically exclusionary practice, that housing density did not increase crime and was better –not worse – for the environment.

In other business, the council:

  • Unanimously approved Anthony Angel, manager of the local Dave and Buster’s, for a spot on the Lynnwood Tourism Advisory Board.
  • Approved the Lynnwood Sewer Comprehensive Plan through 2028. The plan focuses on replacing old and/or failing sewer infrastructure over the course of the next two decades to support predicted population growth. 
  • Authorized Mayor Christine Frizzell to accept opioid settlement funds as state lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies continue. 

In addition, Decker read a proclamation acknowledging Volunteer Week and Hurst read a proclamation recognizing Arbor Day. 

Parks and Recreation staff pose with the council after a proclamation acknowledging Arbor Day
Volunteers pose with the council in honor of Volunteer Week.

Altamirano-Crosby also presented about the National League of Cities Conference that she attended as Lynnwood’s official representative. She said she met with city representatives from across the U.S. and spoke with Rep. Rick Larsen. She attended educational events including a speech by First Lady Jill Biden and a panel about requesting federal aid.

After her presentation, she recommended that Lynnwood join the league, an idea that other councilmembers said they agreed with.

During council comments, Binda requested publicly that he be compensated for his own trip and participation at the conference. While Binda did not attend the event as an official representative of the city, he said was bullied and intimidated by Sessions, who said she wouldn’t permit him to attend. He also stated that he intended to check with the City Attorney Lisa Marshall about his ability to attend as an additional city representative, but did not have enough time to do so before making arrangements to attend.

Sessions said that Binda was not authorized by anyone to go on the trip, got his foot in the door using his status as a councilmember, did not communicate with the council and did not attend any of the events for the city. Marshall confirmed that Binda never contacted her about attending before or after the event. City Representative Nathan MacDonald stated that the situation was fluid and was in the process of being worked out.

–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

  1. Decker and Smith are not helping an already difficult situation when they speak untruths about moderate gun control measures. If there was a move to stop all people from owning all guns in this country, that would be a violation of our Second Amendment. Seeking to curtail ownership of some types of guns is not a violation of our Second Amendment.

  2. Now I know who to vote against when they are up for re-election. Gun violence has gone beyond anything the Founding Father’s could have imagined.

  3. As a descendant of our Founding Father’s you have no idea what you are talking about. You forget our Founding Father’s fought a war for those rights. The 2nd Amendment is not for “hunting” it’s for getting rid of tyrants and self protection from the lawless something you libs keep us in supply of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.