Evergreen State gun rights activists and gun prohibitionists will all be watching to see what happens this Friday morning in King County Superior Court when Seattle’s “gun violence tax” comes up against Washington’s preemption statute in a lawsuit filed jointly by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
They are joined by two Seattle firearms retailers and two private citizens. One of those gun dealers is already set to move his business out of the city if this legal action fails.
But if one were to read the Seattle Times editorial page, public sentiment is definitely against a Wednesday editorial supporting the gun tax, which – according to the gun rights community – clearly violates the 32-year-old preemption law that has served as a model for similar laws in other states. And that may be at or near the heart of this effort, not fighting crime or educating people about “gun violence” or doing research.
Some observers suspect this case may also be an attempt to erode the cornerstone state statute that was the launchpad for so many other laws across the country. Anti-gun municipalities, including Seattle, despise such laws because they take away the power to regulate something urban liberals dislike: guns and the people who own them.
Here’s what that law, RCW 9.41.290, says, in its entirety (with emphasis added):
“The state of Washington hereby 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. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
If there is any part of that that somebody at city hall doesn’t understand, the plaintiffs in this case are hopeful that on Friday, Judge Palmer Robinson will quickly explain it. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
It’s the second time in a decade the city has tried to dance around state preemption, and wound up facing SAF and NRA in court, defending the law. Back in 2009, then-Mayor Greg Nickels tried to ban legally-carried firearms in city park facilities, pushing it as an administrative regulation rather than try to do it by ordinance. The Superior court didn’t buy it and neither did the appeals court.
Many Seattle Times readers are leaving scathing responses to the editorial, which supports the gun tax. It’s as if the newspaper’s editorial board is ignoring the state law, pretending it doesn’t exist, many suggest.
This is not about guns so much as it is about enforcing a three-decades-old state law that has already been upheld, with Seattle previously on the losing end. This is déjà vu all over again.
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