Program allows Seattle businesses to ban guns in stores

SEATTLE -- A new push to turn Seattle businesses into gun-free zones took a step forward Monday when Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the group Washington Ceasefire launched a program for businesses to voluntarily ban guns in stores.

About a dozen of businesses on Capitol Hill say they are already stepping up and taking action by sticking decals in their store windows declaring their business a gun-free zone. Those participating so far include Odd Fellows Lodge, Elliott Bay Books, and Cupcake Royale, to name a few. Cafe Racer, the scene of a fatal shooting at its University District home last year, is also participating.

"This is the most significant health issue of our time I would argue," said Ralph Fascitelli with Washington CeaseFire, "yet the most neglected."

June Son works at Lost Lake Cafe and Bar, another business participating in the program.

"A lot of us work late at night and at the end of your shift when you're walking home, it's just a much better feeling overall to know that folks aren't out there with guns," Son said.

She says the owners of their business were the ones who came up with the idea.

"Our owners here really wanted it to be a safe environment for everyone by doing a gun-free zone," Son said.

Gun violence kills more than 31,000 people each year in the United States and Washington Ceasefire says they are hoping the new program will cut that number. Business owners can sign up to say guns are not allowed and can post signs to let people know their weapon is not welcome inside. The program is entirely voluntary and no city money is being used for its funds.

"It's our right to establish rights of entry," said Michael Meckling. "And to do that to make sure the people coming to our neighborhood want to come here."

But gun rights activists say the program is discrimination toward people who are exercising their civil rights.

Not all businesses will jump on board. For example, just last week, it was a much different scene at area Starbucks stores as gun rights advocates told supporters to visit the coffee houses which do allow concealed weapons. While the coffee giant says they don't endorse events like open carry day, they also say they comply with all local laws -- which means, in Washington, you can still carry a gun inside.

Washington is a free carry state and more than 350,000 people here are permitted to carry a concealed weapon.