UPDATED 3/27—Forty-six Washington State lawmakers have signed onto a letter urging Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee to “promptly amend your March 23, 2020 Executive Order so that licensed firearms dealers are designated as essential businesses.”
In addition, 15 county sheriffs and municipal police chiefs sent a separate letter via email to the governor, encouraging him to do the same thing.
In their letter to Inslee, the 18 state senators and 28 state representatives declared, “Your order threatens the safety of thousands of Washington citizens.” The sheriffs and police chiefs stated, “Your Order threatens the continued operations of our county sheriff departments as well as many other local law enforcement departments around the state.
“Your order unduly burdens the constitutional rights of the people of Washington…Closing licensed firearms dealers means terminating the ability of all Washington citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to them by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 24 of the Washington Constitution.”—Letter to Gov. Jay Inslee from 46 state lawmakers, 15 sheriffs and police chiefs
Among the senators signing the Inslee letter was Republican Phil Fortunato of the 31st District, who has declared his candidacy for Inslee’s job.
Both lawmakers and lawmen concurred on the following: “Your order unduly burdens the constitutional rights of the people of Washington. Licensed firearms dealers have already implemented stringent cleaning, sanitation, and social-distancing rules to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their employees, and their customers. Closing licensed firearms dealers means terminating the ability of all Washington citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to them by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 24 of the Washington Constitution.”
Inslee adopted the package on Monday, after declaring a shut down that is supposed to continue initially through April 8. However, three days later, the governor announced “This order may need to be extended, and the reason is we simply cannot allow this virus to be slowed and then spring back upon us. We’ve gotta pound it and we’ve gotta pound it until it’s done,” according to the Seattle Times.
Fortunato’s letter, dated Thursday, came just hours before Delaware Gov. John Carney backed away from a gun shop closure order. According to a news release from the Second Amendment Foundation, Carney may have been partly influenced by a threatened federal lawsuit by SAF, the National Rifle Association and Firearms Policy Coalition. SAF earlier sued Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey for ordering gun shops in that state to close.
The Delaware order now reads: “Firearms dealers may conduct sales of firearms, ammunition, and other goods directly related to responsible firearm storage and maintenance, by appointment only. No more than two appointments per half hour shall occur, and sellers are limited to operating during normal working hours they operated on prior to the State of Emergency. Any seller who violates such directive may be subject to criminal prosecution or other civil enforcement remedies up to and including arrest or the involuntary closure of the business.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson has called a special meeting of the city council Friday to amend that city’s emergency ordinance by removing a subsection that allows the city to ban the carrying or possession of firearms in a declared emergency. That proposal ran into heavy criticism from gun owners, and it was likely on a collision course with Washington State’s 35-year-old model preemption law. Under that statute, the city does not have the authority to prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms.
But here’s what Washington’s court-proven 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.”
Several states have recognized firearms dealers as “essential services,” according to Tanya Metaksa, writing at TheGunMag.com. She identified those states as Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.