As the challenge to Washington State’s 35-year-old preemption gun law advances, an Edmonds City Council member’ remark published in the Everett Herald underscores the reason behind adoption of this statute in the early 1980s, and why the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association are suing to protect and enforce the law.
“We’re not asking for much here,” said Councilman Thomas Mesaros, the newspaper reported. “We’re just asking them to secure the weapons and the firearms that they have so that people who are not authorized to use them cannot break into their house and use them.”
Ask any Second Amendment activist about that comment and the reaction will be simple: “That’s how the erosion begins, the old ‘we’re not asking for much’ strategy.” A year, maybe two over the horizon, the reasoning goes, backers of the city ordinance requiring so-called “safe storage” will be back for “not much more,” gun rights activists believe. That has been the pattern of gun control in other states, such as California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts; take a little bit at a time and soon a constitutionally-enumerated fundamental right is nothing more than a regulated privilege. The erosion is incremental.
And it may be coordinated, according to a recent assertion at MyNorthwest.com by Seattle radio personality Jason Rantz. He reported that Edmonds City Councilman Mike Nelson “secretly—and at times, desperately—tried to coordinate with an anti-gun Seattle leader to craft gun storage legislation.” Nelson sponsored the safe storage measure, and Rantz said that as early as March he “sought guidance from the anti-gun group Alliance for Gun Responsibility.”
“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 M. Gottlieb in a news report announcing the lawsuit. “Their goal is to discourage citizens from exercising their rights under the state and federal constitutions by financial intimidation. The city council clearly understands preemption, but went ahead with this ordinance, anyway, undoubtedly knowing it would be overturned by the court. It seems as though their ultimate goal is to convince voters that gun law uniformity is somehow a bad idea, so it should be changed.
“They would like to take Washington back decades to a time when citizens had to contend with confusing and conflicting local ordinances and regulations,” he added. “Preemption was adopted to eliminate that mess and make sure it doesn’t happen again. The law has worked for more than three decades. It doesn’t need fixing.
The state preemption statute is encompassing:
“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.”
According to Gottlieb, the legislature’s authority includes the things mentioned above, but is not limited to those specifics.
SAF and NRA have a nearly identical lawsuit against the City of Seattle, which has had its political crosshairs on the state preemption law almost since it was adopted. Liberal municipal governments want to adopt their own gun laws. State preemption was designed to prevent that in the interest of uniformity from border to border.
The Herald story quoted Sean Seaberg, who became one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs because he lives in Edmonds. He testified against the ordinance earlier this summer, and had this observation: “My point is, how can you be considered guilty of anything if someone breaks into your home and steals something? They committed the crime so why am I in trouble? Does the city want to buy me a safe for my rifles? They are expensive.”
According to the Everett Herald, the city has until Aug. 30 to respond to the SAF/NRA lawsuit. A trial is several months away.