The Washington State Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the state’s long-standing model firearms preemption statute in a lawsuit filed against the City of Edmonds by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association and three private citizens, in a case dating back to August 2018.
Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Steven C. González stated, “We hold that the plaintiffs have standing and that this ordinance is preempted by RCW 9.41.290. We affirm the Court of Appeals and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The case is known as Bass v. City of Edmonds.
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb was elated by the court ruling. He told Liberty Park Press this was a “great victory” that should “send a signal to other municipal governments—especially the City of Seattle against which we have a nearly identical pending lawsuit—that they cannot enact their own gun restrictions in violation of state law or the state constitution.”
The victory comes two months after Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell falsely told reporters Washington’s preemption law is one of the few in the country, when in fact there are 42 states with such statutes, and many of them used Washington’s as a model when crafting their own laws.
Here is what the statute 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with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
At a February press event, Harrell stated, “You will hear this year me lead efforts on trying to get relief from the exemption RCW 9.41.290. You’ll hear me talking about that. I don’t know how many lives have to be lost before we realize we’re one of the few states that has that kind of restriction allowing the state to govern the laws we need for our city of Seattle.”
Gottlieb’s response at the time was blistering, “Bruce Harrell needs to reload his brain before shooting his mouth off.”
Ironically, Harrell will be the keynote speaker at the April 27 annual fund raising luncheon for the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group that wants to repeal the preemption law so Seattle and other cities can create their own restrictive gun control ordinances. The result would be a patchwork of confusing and conflicting local regulations, which existed prior to the 1983 enactment of the first version of preemption. In 1985, the law was amended and strengthened.
In his ruling, Chief Justice González stated, “We decline to limit the preemption statute to firearms’ transactions and active use. That limitation is simply not consistent with the words of the statute as a whole.” A few lines later, he added, “The legislature plainly meant to broadly preempt local lawmaking concerning firearms except where specifically authorized in chapter 9.41 RCW or other statutes…Accordingly, we hold that this ordinance is preempted by state law.”
SAF and its fellow plaintiffs also won a unanimous ruling at the appellate court level last year, when Gottlieb observed, “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.
“State preemption is the most common sense approach to firearms regulation there is,” he added. “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.”
Today’s ruling should immediately affect the pending Seattle lawsuit. The Queen City, as it was often called in years past, is the hub of anti-gun politics in the Pacific Northwest. The gun rights victory is a significant setback for the city’s legislative delegation, which has attempted for the past several years to repeal the preemption law.
“Washington adopted state preemption nearly 40 years ago,” Gottlieb said, “and we will defend it vigorously, because it is plain common sense. We’re grateful the state’s highest court unanimously shares that opinion. This is another example of SAF fulfilling its mission to win firearms freedom one lawsuit at a time.”