A Washington State Court of Appeals panel smacked down a so-called “safe storage” requirement for gun owners living in the City of Edmonds because it violates the state’s preemption statute.
The Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association and three private citizens sued the city in 2018 after it adopted the storage requirement in defiance of Washington’s long standing preemption law, adopted in 1983 and 1985. Under that statute, authority for adopting gun laws rests solely in the hands of the State Legislature.
In a 16-page unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel in Division I of the appeals court, the city ordinance was set aside because it violates the law. Acting Chief Judge Beth Andrus authored the opinion, with Judges Bill Bowman and Lori Kay Smith in concurrence. It strongly upholds Washington’s preemption statute, first adopted in 1983 and strengthened in 1985. This law has been used as a model for similar preemption laws in other states. More than 40 states have preemption laws, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control legal group.
A lawsuit was filed against a similar ordinance adopted by the City of Seattle, also in 2018. That lawsuit also involves SAF and NRA as partners, with two local residents.
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb expressed confidence the Seattle lawsuit will turn out the same way because the same appeals court covers both cities.
According to the Everett Herald, Edmonds Councilwoman Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said the city is “looking at” the ruling, trying to figure out its next move.
“Any time you lose in court it is a disappointment,” she said. “If this ordinance may have saved a child’s life because a parent locked away a gun it is worth it.”
But that emotional argument has been tried before. Gun rights activists counter with the equally important concern that some homeowner might lose his or her life because they couldn’t access a firearm in time in a self-defense situation.
NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a prepared statement, “Today’s ruling is an important victory for the people of Washington. Hopefully jurisdictions like Edmonds will realize that violating the Washington State Constitution is neither legal nor in the best interest of personal protection.”
Gottlieb was somewhat more aggressive, observing, “Let’s be clear about something. Edmonds didn’t adopt this safe storage mandate in the interest of safety, but rather to challenge and erode, if not irreparably dismantle the state preemption law. The city has no business dictating to citizens how they should store firearms in their own homes.”
Some Washington municipalities have attempted to repeal the preemption statute because they want to return to the era when the state had a patchwork of confusing and often conflicting local gun laws. More than 35 years ago, the late Republican State Sen. Kent Pullen championed state preemption and got the Legislature to adopt it. The law has prevented local gun bans in city parks and other locations.
“State preemption is the most common sense approach to firearms regulation there is,” Gottlieb said. “It provides uniformity on gun laws from one state border to the other. Whether you live in Edmonds or Ephrata, the gun laws are the same.”
There was no immediate reaction from Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying groups.