Is Washington State’s preemption law under attack?

What’s happening in the small city of Edmonds, Washington could be a signal to gun rights activists in every state that has adopted what is called a “preemption law” that puts sole authority for regulating firearms in the hands of the legislature.

Two cities in Washington are considering local “safe storage” ordinances that could be a challenge to Washington’s preemption law. (Dave Workman)

Washington was an early pioneer in this arena, having adopted a preemption statute in 1983 and improving it in 1985. This statute was used to prevent the City of Seattle from passing a gun ban in city parks facilities a few years ago, thanks to a lawsuit by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

SAF and CCRKBA are currently embroiled in another Evergreen State gun rights battle, over Initiative 1639. That measure would raise the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle, which would be deemed a so-called “assault rifle” under language in the initiative. But the measure could have some problems of a serious technical nature.

The Edmonds City Council is reportedly considering a new ordinance requiring so-called “safe storage” of firearms, including civil liability. If that sounds like a proposal to violate the state preemption statute, a lot of gun owners agree.

The City of Seattle is also moving to adopt a “safe storage” ordinance. Seattle as never liked the preemption law, which prevents cities, counties and other smaller governments from adopting their own, and sometime conflicting, gun laws. Here’s the text of the Washington law, which has inspired similar laws in other states:

“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.”—RCW 9.41.290

According to the Everett Herald, a proposal could be presented to the Edmonds council July 17. That meeting is likely to be packed with gun rights activists who like state preemption because it requires gun law uniformity from Ilwaco to the Idaho border, and from the Canadian border to the Columbia River.

The Edmonds measure, according to the newspaper, could assess fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 and perhaps u to $10,000 in the event a firearm is used in a crime.
For a number of reasons, Washington seems to be a petri dish for new gun control efforts.

But what is happening there could be coming to a city near you in any state with a preemption law, because gun control proponents want to treat the Second Amendment as a regulated privilege at every level of government, rights activists maintain.