The looming fight over one of the nation’s oldest firearms preemption laws has taken on national importance thanks to reports in at least two popular online “news and views” websites, and it might be a signal for traditionally lethargic gun owners to get active in state and local politics.
Tuesday’s primary election results in Washington State have signaled what veteran Seattle P-I.com columnist and blogger Joel Connelly called a “blue wave” that spells trouble for Evergreen State Republicans. If his analysis is accurate, it also means trouble for state gun owners who were once able to boast a high level of activism, not to mention genuine “common sense” gun laws that held criminals responsible for crimes, not guns or the people who legally owned them. They defeated anti-gun Initiative 676 in 1997 by a whopping 70-percent vote turnout.
However, in recent years that has been changing, thanks to deep pockets Seattle-area elitists who have weaponized their wealth to erode the gun rights of honest citizens, according to Second Amendment activists. Many of them will gather this weekend in Puyallup for the monthly Washington Arms Collectors gun show, perhaps to discuss what can be done to fight back.
There are immediate concerns, including lawsuits against the cities of Seattle and Edmonds, both of which have recently adopted local gun control ordinances that are likely illegal under preemption. Even Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat acknowledged in a July 27 column that Seattle’s ordinance is “almost certainly illegal.” The Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association have taken both cities to court. Likewise, SAF founder Alan Gottlieb, acting as a private citizen, and the NRA have filed separate challenges to initiative 1639, the latest gun control proposal that strips young adults of their right to own a modern sporting rifle, and mandates waiting periods, registration and safe storage, while classifying popular .22-caliber rifles as “assault rifles,” critics assert.
Then comes King County Councilman, and former state senator, Joe McDermott with his own gun control scheme that includes what now seems like an ominous warning:
“The Washington State Legislature enacted a preemptive ban on local jurisdictions from making laws that might limit the sale or possession of firearms in our state.
“If the state preemption law is repealed, the King County Gun Safety Action Plan will immediately:
- Ban semi-automatic, high velocity weapons: Ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic, high velocity weapons
- Ban high capacity ammunition magazines: Ban the sale and possession of high capacity ammunition magazines
- Raise the minimum age to 21: For all firearm purchases and possession laws
- Impose a waiting period: Establish a waiting period before taking possession of a firearm after purchase
- Require safety training: Require firearm safety training before taking possession of a firearm after purchase
If Democrats gain more ground in the Washington Legislature come November, it could portend a serious run at repealing state preemption in January. It is a law that has worked well for 35 years and prevented local governments from regressing to the time when gun owners faced a patchwork quilt of often confusing and even conflicting gun regulations. Preemption, which brought uniformity to gun laws from border to border, sensibly solved that, say preemption defenders.
With Town Hall’s attention to this looming conflict, it sends a message to rights activists in other states to pay attention because what happens in Washington could be coming to their states.
Evergreen State voters largely sat out Tuesday’s primary, and the result was a bad news day for conservatives and gun owners. If they learn from their lethargy by November, and return those important ballots – which do not even require a stamp, so there is really no excuse for not voting – gun owners just might pull this one out of the fire, provided apathy doesn’t get the better of them.