A Superior Court judge in Washington’s Snohomish County has ruled that a “safe storage” ordinance adopted last year by the City of Edmonds violates the Evergreen State’s 35-year-old state preemption law, and in the process may have set the stage for a state Supreme Court confrontation.
A Superior Court judge in neighboring King County dismissed a similar challenge to a nearly identical ordinance adopted in the City of Seattle last year. That case is now under appeal to the state Court of Appeals.
Both challenges were brought by the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association, working with residents in both jurisdictions.
The ruling by Judge Anita Farris will be appealed by Edmonds. However, according to SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb, the judge denied the city’s request to stay her ruling until it can be appealed. The judge, he explained in a prepared statement, said part of the “stay test” requires a showing of a “reasonable probability of success on the merits.” Gottlieb said Judge Farris “saw no possibility of success for the city and summed it up by stating it is ‘not a close call.’”
“Judge Farris’ ruling confirms what we’ve argued all along,” Gottlieb observed, “that under the state preemption law, first adopted in 1983 and strengthened in 1985, the Legislature has sole authority over firearms regulation in the state.”
Washington’s law became a model for several other states. The gun prohibition lobby has been pushing similar efforts in other states because anti-gun politicians in major cities want to create their own gun control laws, Gottlieb said. State preemption was designed to prevent that scenario, which creates essentially a patchwork of confusing and sometimes conflicting regulations from one jurisdiction to the next, often separated only by an invisible boundary along a street or road.
“This victory will help stop this across the country,” Gottlieb suggested. “Preemption uniformity was a good idea in the 1980s and it is still the most commonsense way to deal with firearms regulation. What is the law in one part of a state should be the law in all parts of that state.”
Here’s what Washington’s law says:
“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
By no small coincidence, a member of Washington’s congressional delegation whose district encompasses Edmonds and most of Seattle just introduced federal legislation that would make so-called “safe storage” a federal mandate. Rep. Pramila Jayapal was joined by New York Congressman Eliot Engel, both Democrats, introducing the Safe Gun Storage Act.
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