Now that the Washington State Legislature is controlled by Democrats, a Democrat lawmaker whose district is in Seattle will push to overturn the Evergreen State’s long standing preemption law that prevents cities, towns and counties from adopting their own gun laws.
As KIRO radio reported, State Rep. Nicole Macri wants to knock down the 30-year-old law that placed sole authority for firearms regulation in the hands of the Legislature. No jurisdiction can adopt tougher or contradictory gun laws, such as bans in city or county parks, and other public venues. The law has served as a model for similar laws in other states.
This became possible due to the outcome of a special election in the state’s 45th District that was won by liberal Democrat Manka Dinghra. She made no secret about her attitude on guns, and this appears to be the opportunity the party was waiting for. Macri made the announcement during a legislative preview event sponsored by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility gun control lobbying group.
“It’s the Restoration of Local Authority,” Macri explained, “and it returns control to our local cities and towns and counties from taking their own action to prevent gun violence by overturning the statewide preemption law that was enacted 30 years ago. It will allow cities and towns to limit firearm access in the ways that they think will best protect their communities in public places like parks and libraries where we know kids play and learn.”
Prior to enacting the preemption law in 1983, Washington had a literal checkerboard of local gun regulations. Seattle-based anti-gunners have wanted to destroy preemption almost from the day it became law because it prevents them from adopting whatever restrictions they want.
The preemption law prevented Seattle from adopting a gun ban in city park facilities several years ago. A lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and several private citizens derailed that attempt in court. When the city appealed, the state court of appeals decided unanimously against the city. The State Supreme Court rejected the case.
Here is what Washington’s law says:
“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.”
The issue in Washington is the same as it is in any of the other dozens of states that have adopted preemption statutes: Uniformity. What is legal in Spokane is legal in Seattle. People driving through multiple jurisdictions needn’t worry about being ensnared by local gun laws.
Gun prohibition groups across the country will be watching this, because knocking down a “model” law could be more than a symbolic victory. It might launch similar efforts in other states, and it demonstrates once again that elections matter.