A judge in Snohomish County, Washington has ruled that a local gun storage law passed by city council members in Edmonds violates the state’s firearms preemption law, handing a victory to gun owners and Second Amendment organizations, and possibly setting up a fight in the state Supreme Court as well.
The Washington State-based Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association, along with three private citizens, brought the lawsuit against Edmonds after the city passed its storage ordinance in 2018 (the Second Amendment groups dropped out as named plaintiffs earlier this year but continue to support and provide funding for the case). Today, Judge Anita Farris ruled that the ordinance “impermissibly regulates firearms”, which is a no-no under the state’s firearms preemption law. The law, which was passed in 1983, leaves gun regulations in the hands of the state lawmakers to provide for a uniform standard across the state.
The city of Edmonds had sought to keep the ordinance in place while it appeals the judge’s decision, but Farris rejected the argument by attorneys for the city. As the SAF notes:
The judge explained that part of the “stay test” requires showing a reasonable probability of success on the merits, and she saw no possibility of success for the city on appeal. She described it as “not a close call.
Compare that to the actions of King County Judge Barbara Linde, who rejected a lawsuit challenging a similar storage law in Seattle after finding that the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA did not have standing to file litigation. The gun groups are appealing that decision to the state Court of Appeals, and it’s expected that the city of Edmonds will do the same after suffering their defeat in Snohomish County. This sets up the distinct possibility that the state Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on the matter, given the conflicts over the law in the lower courts.
Washington State’s firearms preemption law is crystal clear. The state “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.”
That definition doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for cities to pass their own gun control laws, which is why anti-gun activists are challenging preemption laws all over the country, from Pittsburgh to the Puget Sound. As the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action reported almost a year ago, the Washington State-based “Alliance for Gun Responsibility” is actively trying to repeal firearms preemption in the state, and we’ve seen similar bills introduced in several other states, including Virginia.
Congratulations to SAF, NRA, and the other plaintiffs in this case for an important win in the court system. The fight over firearms preemption is far from over in Washington State, but today’s decision is a big deal in terms of defending firearms preemption law, and a great example of why these laws are needed in states throughout the nation.