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Seattle: Make gun offenders register like sex offenders?

Zoren Deneu

Sex offenders have to register when they get out of prison in Washington. So why shouldn’t people who commit a violent crime with a gun have to do the same?

It’s an idea being floated by the Seattle Police Department.In Seattle, during a city council briefing, Deputy Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel raised the idea of pushing Washington state to adopt a registry of gun-toting criminals.

“Just like a sex offender, once you are released you would be classified as either a Level I, Level I or Level III offender. You would have to register not because you own a gun, but because you choose to use it during a crime and hurt someone,” he said.

Pugel says police would be able to regularly check on the offenders to see what they’re up to the way they do now with sex offenders.

Aware of likely criticism from gun rights activists, Pugel told the council:

“This isn’t against guns, it’s against stupid behavior with a gun.”

The gun offender registry is just one idea that’s surfaced as the city does some soul searching in the wake of recent gun violence.

Seattle wouldn’t be the first place to set up a gun offender registry. New York City put one in place back in 2006 and has since seen a drop in the murder rate. Registries also exist in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Utica, N.Y., and Suffolk County, N.Y.

This week, Prince George’s County in Maryland passed a registry law. The Washington Post provided details of the Prince George's law:

The bill will require anyone convicted of a gun crime in Prince George’s to provide police with his or her name, any aliases and a host of contact information, including a home address, telephone number and e-mail address. Every six months, those on the registry will be required to meet with police to verify the information they provided, and officers can periodically visit — though not search — offenders’ homes to make sure the information is accurate and up to date. Those convicted of most gun crimes will stay on the registry for three years; those convicted of using a handgun in another crime will remain on the registry for five years. Anyone who either fails to register or moves without notifying police will face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Offenders have 48 hours from the time they are sentenced — or released, should their sentence involve prison time — to register.

Below is a video of officials pitching the idea in Utica:

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.