Predictably, the anti-gun majority of Washington State’s King County Council voted Monday to adopt a new “safe storage” requirement for gun owners, likely in violation of the state’s 35-year-old preemption statute, but some pro-rights activists in the firearms community are quietly wondering if this isn’t a signal that the preemption law could be in jeopardy if Democrats take stronger control of the Legislature in 2019.
King County joins the Cities of Seattle and Edmonds in deliberately adopting similar ordinances that add restrictions on gun owners. But in 1985, the Legislature adopted a preemption statute—one of the first in the nation—that placed sole authority for gun regulation in their hands. Cities, towns and counties were prohibited from adopting tougher local gun laws.
By no small coincidence, the county’s move came as the state Department of Licensing released updated figures on state concealed pistol licenses, as earlier reported. As of Monday, there were 598,244 active CPLs in the state, including 98,676 in King County. Last month at this time, there were 594,812 active CPLs statewide, of which 98,883 were in the county.
Officials in Seattle and other cities along the north-south Interstate 5 corridor despise the preemption law because they want to establish their own, more restrictive regulations on guns. If Democrats take stronger control of the Legislature as a result of next month’s elections, the concern among law-abiding gun owners—the people who don’t commit crimes—is that the “party of gun control” will repeal the preemption law to allow the return of a system under which there was a patchwork of laws, sometimes contradictory and/or conflicting, as a way to discourage gun ownership in a state with one of the strongest state constitutional right to bear arms provisions in the nation.
Grassroots pro-rights activists in Washington, much like politically active gun owners everywhere, are becoming more convinced that Democrats look at the right to bear arms as some sort of government-regulated privilege.
Right now, there is a growing grassroots effort to defeat Initiative 1639, the 30-page gun control measure pushed by a Seattle-based, and billionaire-backed, gun prohibition lobbying group. The initiative would classify every semiautomatic rifle in the state as a “semiautomatic assault rifle.” It would mandate so-called “secure storage.” According to the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, which opposes the measure, I-1639 “creates a new crime of ‘Community Endangerment’ and there is NO law enforcement exemption.”
According to the initiative, community endangerment could carry felony or gross misdemeanor penalties.
I-1639 also raises the minimum age for buying or owning a semi-auto rifle to 21, and mandates a 10-day waiting period, training and annual background checks.
But according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2017, which was just released, Washington state only experienced one homicide last year in which a rifle was the confirmed weapon. That was out of 134 total murders involving firearms, 75 of which involved handguns. There were 57 slayings in which the firearm was not identified.
Seattle and Edmonds have already been sued by the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation, for violating state preemption. Many pro-rights activists believe the state Attorney General’s office should be suing those cities as well.
King County may also find itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit, which makes the preemption law even more important, and why the county council’s action Monday could energize more Second Amendment voters to return ballots next month.