Grassroots activists should get to their “battle stations” in the effort to confirm federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to national gun rights leader Alan Gottlieb, as anti-gun Democrats led by Sen. Charles Schumer ramp up the opposition.
Schumer and others are bracing for battle to keep Kavanaugh off the high court. Their main focus initially appears to be fear about a reversal of Roe v. Wade, but those who attended a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court Monday night are all perennial anti-gunners. According to the Associated Press, “Several senators seen as possible White House candidates in 2020 addressed the crowd, including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”
Gottlieb released a statement Monday evening praising the Kavanaugh nomination. He suggested that if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, it could open the door for the Supreme Court to consider more gun rights cases, especially those challenging restrictive carry statutes in several states that have been declined in recent years.
But in Gottlieb’s home state of Washington, another legal — translation: political — battle is brewing, this one over what appears to be a carefully planned challenge of the state preemption law. Washington was one of the first to pioneer such statutes that place sole authority for regulating guns in the hands of state legislatures.
Seattle’s far left city council on Monday adopted a so-called “safe storage” ordinance that will likely be signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan. This ordinance will slap heavy fines on gun owners who do not keep their firearms under lock and key, especially if they fall into the wrong hands, and that appears to fly in the face of the state’s 35-year-old preemption statute.
“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.”—RCW 9.41.920
Municipal politicians have long disliked the preemption statute, not just in Washington but around the country. Seattle lost when it tried to ban firearms in city park facilities in violation of the law, thanks to a lawsuit filed by Gottlieb’s Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, both headquartered in Bellevue, a city located just east of Seattle on the opposite side of Lake Washington. They were joined by the National Rifle Association and Washington Arms Collectors.
San Francisco’s attempts at gun bans lost because of a similar California law. California is one of a handful of states that does not have a right to bear arms provision in its state constitution, but it does have a form of preemption. Years ago SAF stopped the first attempted gun ban in a solo action, and a few years ago, SAF and NRA joined forces to stop a second attempt.
In Washington, the City of Edmonds is reportedly considering the same kind of ordinance that Seattle just passed. For gun rights activists, it’s a clear signal that the state preemption statute is under attack in the Northwest, and this may be one of those “reasonable first steps.”
What is happening in Seattle could have national ramifications, because Washington’s law has provided a model for some other states, and the Evergreen State has become something of a “test tube” for anti-gun activity. Theoretically, if a preemption law can be eroded in that state, the same strategies might be used to erode similar laws elsewhere around the country. And, so, the legal wrangling over preemption will begin.
It would be highly unlikely for such a case to ever land before the U.S. Supreme Court, but other cases involving the right to keep and bear arms could be headed that direction even now. SAF and NRA have been busy in the courts since the 2010 McDonald ruling incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment. Kavanaugh’s confirmation might signal more activity on that level.
It makes sense that Gottlieb would be telling the pro-rights grassroots to get in the game. There is much at stake between now and November’s mid-term elections, and with opposition rising from anti-gunners, that’s a signal for Second Amendment activists to get behind the Kavanaugh nomination.