A second city in Washington State has been sued jointly by the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association over an alleged violation of the state’s 35-year-old preemption law, which prohibits local governments from adopting their own gun laws.
Joined by two local residents, the gun rights groups on Tuesday sued the City of Edmonds, its mayor and police chief. The city recently adopted a so-called “safe storage” regulation with civil fines ranging upwards to $10,000.
According to the lawsuit, “The ordinance’s mandates are legally unenforceable.”
Standing in the way, according to the lawsuit, is the state preemption law, adopted in 1983:
“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with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
NRA and SAF last month also joined forces to sue the City of Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best.
“It is clear to us that a handful of cities are trying desperately to erode Washington’s long-standing preemption law,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb in a prepared statement. “Their goal is to discourage citizens from exercising their rights under the state and federal constitutions by financial intimidation.”
Gottlieb said the Edmonds City Council “clearly understands preemption, but went ahead with this ordinance, anyway, undoubtedly knowing it would be overturned by the court.”
So, what’s going on here? One theory is that anti-gun public officials are adopting these ordinances in hopes of drawing gun rights groups into legal actions as a drain on their financial resources. Seattle is getting free legal representation. Essentially, they are “brush fire lawsuits.”
Another theory is that the gun prohibition movement is challenging Washington’s preemption statute in hopes of finding weaknesses because the Evergreen State law served as a model for similar laws in other states. See if it works in Washington, the logic seems to say, and try it in other states.
Gottlieb said something else that may hit a nerve with some voters.
“This is a legal action that should have been undertaken by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson,” Gottlieb noted. “Unfortunately, he is more interested his political agenda and attacking people on his political enemies list, so the constitutional rights of Washington citizens come last.”
Preemption places exclusive authority for firearms regulation in the hands of the Legislature in the interest of gun law uniformity from border to border. Anti-gun municipal politicians hate that because they want their own gun laws, which are, according to gun rights advocates, confusing and often contradictory.