Was there coordination in efforts to skirt WA preemption statute?

An Edmonds, Wash. city council member apparently tried to coordinate a gun control effort he spearheaded in that city with a similar effort in Seattle to skirt Washington state’s 35-year-old gun regulation preemption statute, resulting in lawsuits against both municipalities, according to revelations by a Seattle talk show host at MyNorthwest.com.

So-called “safe storage’ laws in two Washington cities are being challenged for allegedly violating the state preemption statute. (Dave Workman)

It’s a safe bet that anti-gun officials in other cities in, and outside of, Washington are watching this situation for hints about how they might mount their own challenges to preemption.

The report, headlined “Edmonds councilmember secretly coordinates anti-gun bill with Seattle, gets sued,” details how Edmonds Councilman Mike Nelson “secretly – and at times, desperately – tried to coordinate with an anti-gun Seattle leader to craft gun storage legislation.”

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“He left at least some colleagues in the dark about his legislation and hasn’t responded to multiple requests for interview,” wrote Jason Rantz, a talk host at KTTH radio.

If accurate, the allegation underscores what veteran gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb said about the lawsuit against Edmonds, filed recently by the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association. Gottlieb founded SAF and serves as its executive vice president.

In a statement at the time the lawsuit was filed, Gottlieb observed, “It is clear to us that a handful of cities are trying desperately to erode Washington’s long-standing preemption law. Their goal is to discourage citizens from exercising their rights under the state and federal constitutions by financial intimidation.”

Both Edmonds and Seattle would hold gun owners responsible if their firearms fell into the hands of juveniles or disqualified adults who subsequently committed crimes or harmed themselves or another person.

“The City of Seattle has been trying to erode state preemption almost from the moment it was passed back in 1985,” Gottlieb said when SAF and NRA sued Seattle.

Under state law, cities, towns and counties are prohibited from adopting their own gun control laws. Here is the full wording of the statute:

“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.”

According to Rantz’ story, Nelson apparently got some help from the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun control lobbying group. The well-financed Alliance has been behind three different gun control initiatives since 2014. The one currently proposed, Initiative 1639, is being challenged by two separate lawsuits in Thurston County Superior Court. A hearing on those challenges is slated next Friday.

The Edmonds and Seattle ordinances mandate so-called “safe storage,” which is not specifically mentioned in the statute. But that law clearly says the state “fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state.” That does not appear to leave either city with any wiggle room.

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