As promised, attorneys representing the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association this morning filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, its mayor and police chief, alleging that the city has violated Washington State’s 35-year-old preemption statute by illegally adopting a gun control regulation that includes provisions for fines ranging to $10,000.
SAF and NRA are joined by two Seattle residents, Omar Abdul Alim and Michael Thyng. Eight years ago, SAF and NRA teamed up with two other rights organizations to prevent Seattle from violating the state law when then-Mayor Greg Nickels pushed a ban on firearms in city park facilities. When the city appealed its loss under former Mayor Mike McGinn, the SAF/NRA victory was unanimously upheld by the State Court of Appeals.
Earlier this week, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an ordinance mandating so-called “safe storage” of firearms. Under the ordinance, gun owners can be fined anywhere from $500 to $10,000 if their firearms are accessed by unauthorized individuals, including children, and used to commit crimes or harm other persons.
Adding to the drama, anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety’s “Litigation Team” and Orrick LPP announced that they will provide free legal representation to fight “any resulting litigation.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb stressed that, while nobody is opposed to safe storage of firearms, it should not be a government mandate, nor should gun owners be penalized when their guns are stolen and misused by others.
It is also a defense of the state law that has served Washington citizens well for more than three decades, providing uniformity of gun regulation from one border to the other, he explained. What is legal in Spokane is also legal in Seattle.
The irony here is mind boggling, he suggested. While anti-rights politicians and gun prohibition lobbying groups continually demand that firearms owners obey the law, those same officials do not seem the least bit reluctant to ignore a long-standing state law they don’t like when it suits their political agenda.
Gun control, say Second Amendment activists, is not “gun safety.” For generations, the NRA has taught firearms safety in the home, including safe storage. When anyone talks about a “gun safety” group, if they’re not talking about the NRA or some other firearms organization, then they are actually referring to a gun control lobbying group, pretending to be something they are not.
Washington State’s preemption statute is self-explanatory. When it was adopted in 1983 and strengthened two years later it placed complete authority for firearms regulation in the hands of the legislature:
“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.”
Gottlieb noted that the legislature’s authority for regulating firearms is not limited just to those specific areas delineated in the legislation. The state “fully occupies” that field of regulation and “preempts the entire field of firearms regulation,” he stressed.
“We should not have to repeatedly remind Seattle that they are still part of Washington State and must obey the law,” Gottlieb said. “Seattle seems to think it should be treated differently than any other local government when it comes to firearm regulation…Seattle simply can’t break the law to adopt an ordinance as a political statement.”
There was something else, buried in the Everytown press release that should raise alarms about the effectiveness of Initiative 594, the so-called “universal background check” measure that was supported by Everytown and Bloomberg in excess of $1 million.
“ According to the Seattle Police Department, at least 250 guns were reported stolen in the City of Seattle in 2017,” the news release said.
None of those guns “changed hands” with a background check. Criminals don’t bother with laws that inconvenience law-abiding citizens, which include “safe storage” requirements that go after the wrong people.