Seattle's New Storage Law Might Not Withstand Legal Scrutiny

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

When Seattle passed their firearm storage law, I rolled my eyes. Time and again, these laws get passed, and nothing ever comes of them except a few people get hammered for a momentary lapse. That’s about it. They don’t impact criminals in any way. They only punish the law-abiding citizen by creating another hurdle they have to consider in their day-to-day lives.

However, what I didn’t know is that the law may not survive a legal challenge. You see, Washington state has a preemption clause.

City gun control laws and regulations are generally preempted by Washington state law. Seattle’s latest firearm regulations will test the boundaries of how far a city can go.

“The reason the city might not be preempted by state law is that they’re regulating storage, not ownership or possession,” former state Attorney General Rob McKenna told Seattle’s Morning News.

Even so, McKenna says a court challenge is inevitable. The courts will have to decide whether requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms falls under health and public safety. If that is the case, then Seattle’s law will likely be upheld because all cities have some authority when improving public health.

When the challenge comes, the courts will also decide if proper storage already falls under the state’s firearm possession laws, McKenna says.

The thing is, laws like this are precisely why preemption is a thing.

For example, you move to Seattle for some reason. You find out that there is a safe storage law, so you use the gun locks that came with your firearms. Unfortunately, you’re still in violation of the law.

You see, Seattle’s law now requires guns to be kept in locked containers and rendered unusable to anyone other than an authorized user. Now, maybe being kept in a safe is sufficient for that, but a gun lock probably isn’t.

In other words, you violate the law despite trying to comply with it.

But more realistically, you may move to the city and forget all about the law and not comply with the regulation you don’t know exists. Then, God forbid something happens, and you end up being told to pay out $10,000 for failing to comply with a law you didn’t know existed.

Preemption exists to prevent that kind of thing.

While McKenna is right that the Seattle law regulates the storage of guns, let’s be honest here. It’s about gun control. It’s still an attempt by the city to make life difficult for law-abiding gun owners and is why states created preemption law.

But the leadership in Seattle don’t care about that. They want to make gun ownership untenable within their city. The anti-gun city can’t quite override the entire state just yet, but they do have Seattle solidly sewn up, so they’ll do whatever they want to do to punish gun owners for being gun owners.

Let’s hope the legal challenge comes quickly and the city is overridden quickly.

Oct 21, 2021 9:30 PM ET
Oct 21, 2021 6:30 PM ET