Seattle mayor to challenge Washington State preemption law?

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Screen capture, YouTube, KCPQ)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan appears poised to take on Washington State’s 35-year-old model preemption law by proposing legislation requiring so-called “safe storage” of firearms and “increased civil penalties…for not reporting lost or stolen firearms.”

She made the announcement Wednesday with no details about what might be involved in this “legislation,” but she did say the proposal will come after “outreach and engagement with stakeholders including gun owners, safety advocates, community members, public health experts and others.”

But Evergreen State gun rights activists are wondering if this effort will stand up under the law, which places sole authority for gun regulation in the hands of the State Legislature. Seattle lost in court when it tried to ban firearms in city park facilities about eight years ago, when it was sued by a coalition that included the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and five individual citizens.

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Here is the language of Washington’s model law:

“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with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”

There does not seem to be much flexibility in that language. Seattle earlier was allowed to adopt a “gun violence tax” on the sale of firearms and ammunition because the courts considered that legal under the city’s taxing authority. However, an ordinance that would require safe storage has nothing to do with a tax.

“Gun violence and mass shootings are a plague on our society, and for too long our federal and state governments have failed to enact common sense measures to promote gun safety. I support, and am prepared to defend, Seattle taking steps to move forward at the local level,”—Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes

According to a statement from Durkan’s office, the mayor and City Councilwoman M. Lorena Gonzalez, along with City Attorney Pete Holmes, will be “developing legislation.”

There are two gun control groups in the city, the billionaire-financed Alliance for Gun Responsibility and the less active Washington CeaseFire, and they are routinely referred to as “gun safety groups” by the local media.

Durkan did not say how a safe storage requirement would be enforced.

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