The gun control lobby hates firearm preemption laws. The measures, which are on the books in about 40 states, are designed to prevent localities from establishing their own gun control ordinances that go beyond state law, which is obviously a huge roadblock for the anti-gun movement. So, for the past several years the gun control lobby has been actively working to remove preemption laws via legislation as well as litigation; in some cases challenging preemption laws directly and in other cases working with localities to put ordinances on the books that will be challenged in court in the hopes of having a judge toss out a state’s preemption law.
While the strategy has seen some success, most notably with Colorado’s repeal of its preemption law last year, the gun control lobby was handed a major defeat on Thursday when the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the state’s preemption statute in a case challenging the city of Edmonds’ gun storage law.
In a unanimous decision today, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation against the City of Edmonds for violating the state’s firearms preemption law, which the Court upheld, have standing to bring the action.
Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Steven C. González stated, “We hold that the plaintiffs have standing and that this ordinance is preempted by RCW 9.41.290. We affirm the Court of Appeals and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
SAF was joined in the case, known as Bass v. City of Edmonds, by the National Rifle Association and three private citizens, Swan Seaberg, Curtis McCullough and Brett Bass, for whom the lawsuit is named.
The city had adopted a so-called “safe storage” mandate for firearms owners living within Edmonds city limits. But in 1985, the State Legislature adopted the state statute, preempting “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…”
SAF founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb cheered the court’s decision afterwards, declaring it a “great victory for the principle of state preemption.”
“This should send a signal to other municipal governments—especially the City of Seattle against which we have a nearly identical pending lawsuit—that they cannot enact their own gun restrictions in violation of state law or the state constitution.
“We will not tolerate anti-gun politicians who violate the law in order to pass laws to restrict our rights,” he added.
Now that the state Supreme Court has issued its decision, gun owners in Washington State should also be concerned about anti-gun politicians trying to change the law in order to pass laws that restrict their rights. I doubt that the gun prohibitionists are just going to roll over and go back to sleep now that the state Supreme Court has upheld the state’s preemption law. Instead, look for anti-gun groups in Washington State to launch an effort to undo firearms preemption via the legislature next year. Democrats have already managed to get a magazine ban enacted into law this year, and my guess is that repealing preemption will be a top priority for the gun control lobby and anti-gun politicians next session.
Hopefully a red wave election this fall can bolster the numbers of pro-2A lawmakers in the state legislature, but if Washington State gun owners want to keep preemption on the books they need to get out and vote in November, and encourage every one of their friends and family to do the same.