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Kelso City Hall

The Kelso City Council Tuesday opted to remain neutral on gun control Initiative 1639.

“The best situation for the city is to be neutral on this. We only have our individual beliefs on whether it is constitutional or not, but that’s for the courts to decide,” Councilman Mike Karnofski told the council. “We’ve wasted city resources on following this up.”

City staff looked into the council’s options after multiple counties and sheriffs across the state, including Cowlitz County and Sheriff Brad Thurman, declared they would hold off on enforcing the law while challenges move through the court system.

In response to the stances, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent an open letter on Feb. 12 to all sheriffs and police chiefs stating that the initiative, like all laws, is presumed constitutional.

“In the event a police chief or sheriff refuses to perform the background check required by Initiative 1639, they could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm,” the letter stated. “In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law.”

In light of the letter, City Attorney Janean Parker advised the council that declaring its intention not to enforce the law could open the city up to liability.

Councilmen Larry Alexander and Jeff McAllister both said they opposed the law because they believe it violates the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, the council decided not to take any formal action.

In other business, the council:

  • Heard a presentation on the local real estate market from Chris Roewe with Woodford Commercial Real Estate, who said the market is stable in most sectors.
  • Awarded a $1.65 million contract to Advanced Excavating Specialists of Longview to construct parking and circulation improvements at Tam O’Shanter Park. The council also allocated $272,000 additional funds from general revenue sources and reserves to make up a funding shortfall.
  • Awarded a $64,500 contract to Walsh Consulting Group, LLC, to continue managing the West Main Street project.

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