Appeals Court Strikes Down Gun Storage Law

Appeals Court Strikes Down Gun Storage Law
Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that a local gun storage law passed in the city of Edmonds, Washington back in 2018 violates the state’s firearm preemption statute, delivering a huge win to gun owners and Second Amendment organizations that had challenged the local law in court.

The law, which mandated that all firearms be kept locked up unless were under the control of the gun owner and imposed penalties for “unauthorized use of firearms”, was immediately contested by three residents of Edmonds along with the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association, but the city argued that none of the parties had standing to sue. Nearly two years ago, in March of 2019, a judge officially ruled that the suit could go forward.

The plaintiffs appealed, and in October 2019 the court (again presided over by Judge Farris) granted a partial victory to both sides, finding that the plaintiffs’ standing applies to the safe storage but not the unauthorized use provisions of the ordinance. Accordingly, the court ruled that the State preemption law applies to the storage provisions but not the unauthorized use provisions. This said in effect that the City of Edmonds cannot tell people how to store their guns, but can levy fines against gun owners whose firearms are possessed or used by unauthorized persons.

The new Appeals Court ruling issued Monday goes beyond this, finding that the plaintiffs have standing to bring suit against both the storage and unauthorized use provisions of the Edmonds ordinance, and further finding that the state preemption statute also applies to both of these provisions.

The ruling concludes with the following language:

“We therefore conclude that RCW 9.41.290 [the Washington State Preemption Law] unambiguously preempts both ECC 5.26.020 [the safe storage provisions of Edmonds Ordinance 4120] and ECC 5.23.030 [the unauthorized use provisions of Edmonds Ordinance 4120].

“CONCLUSION  – Although the trial court erred in dismissing the Gun Owners’ challenge to ECC 5.26.030 on standing grounds, we affirm the trial court’s determination that RCW 9.41.290 unambiguously preempts ECC 5.26.020 and further conclude that ECC 5.26.030 is also preempted.”

In other words, both sections of the safe storage law violate the state’s firearm preemption language, which leaves it up to the state legislature to determine a uniform set of laws across the state.

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who proposed the storage law when he was on the city council back in 2018, has been quiet on the possibility of appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court, though he did tell the Edmonds News that the city has “an outstanding team of lawyers assisting us on our next steps and options. This much is clear, we are not going to stop protecting our children from gun violence until the violence stops,”

If Nelson is actually interested in protecting kids, there are plenty of steps that the city could take without ignoring state law. Education and training is much more effective than an unconstitutional mandate that can’t be enforced in the first place, but Nelson and his anti-gun allies chose to try an end run around state statutes rather than working within the confines of the law to educate folks about the need to ensure that no unauthorized person can get ahold of their gun.

Tragedies like the mother of five in North Carolina who was killed when one of her young children fished her pistol out of her purse can absolutely be prevented, but a one-size-fits-all mandate isn’t the way to do it. Edmonds’ storage law offers the possibility of punishment after the fact, but does nothing to actually protect kids. It won’t happen, but Nelson and other anti-gun politicians would be better off trying to work with organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA on teaching true gun safety instead of enacting laws that leads to the 2A groups suing in defense of the rights of residents.


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