Snohomish County, WA Superior Court Judge Anita L. Farris has ruled that all plaintiffs – including the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association – have standing in a lawsuit filed last year challenging a so-called “safe storage” ordinance adopted by the City of Edmonds.
Judge Farris did what King County Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde wouldn’t do last year when she dismissed a similar challenge to a storage ordinance adopted by the City of Seattle. SAF and NRA brought that lawsuit as well with two local residents, essentially on the same grounds that such ordinances violate Washington State’s 35-year-old model preemption law. That law places all authority for gun regulation within the state borders in the hands of the State Legislature.
But anti-gun-rights municipal governments in Seattle and elsewhere have long wanted the preemption statute to be repealed or overturned by the courts, which have become increasingly liberal, at least in western Washington. SAF, NRA and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms used the preemption statute to thwart an attempt by Seattle several years ago to ban legally-carried firearms in city park facilities. However, when the groups challenged a so-called “gun violence tax” adopted by Seattle three years ago, the liberal state Supreme Court allowed the tax to stand.
Under the Edmonds ordinance, violations of the storage ordinance could result in fines ranging as high as $10,000. At the time, SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb accused the cities of hoping to “discourage citizens from exercising their rights under the state and federal constitutions by financial intimidation.”
In a statement Wednesday, Gottlieb said his organization and the other plaintiffs were “encouraged” by Judge Farris’ order.
“The city knows this ordinance violates the state preemption statute,” he said, “and we believe this ordinance, and the one in Seattle, were passed specifically to erode the state law.
“The cities have desperately wanted to remove the preemption law so they can establish their own, possibly contradictory gun control rules,” Gottlieb explained. “The cities want to take Washington State back in time, to an era when a patchwork quilt of confusing, conflicting gun laws existed. State Preemption did away with that, and it’s time for the courts to end this nonsense.”
Before the preemption statute was passed in 1983, Washington had a mix of local gun laws. The Legislature fixed that in 1985 by nullifying those laws and taking sole authority for gun regulation. Washington’s law became a model that other states copied.
When the lawsuit against Edmonds was first reported last year, local news agencies continued to use the term “gun safety ordinance” while gun rights groups call it a “gun control” regulation.
The Edmonds ordinance was to have taken effect this month. With the lawsuit being allowed to move forward, it’s not clear whether that will happen.
Attorneys for the city had moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but Judge Farris rejected that request.