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Seattle’s proposed gun law faces huge hurdle

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Seattle leaders say they can’t wait for Congress or state lawmakers to take action to fight gun violence. That’s why they have a plan of their own to require gun owners to safely store their weapons.

But the city will have to get over a pretty big hurdle to enact its own gun law — the state preemption law.

How Seattle is using ERPO laws

It was a disappointing legislative session for gun control advocates with several gun bills failing. Failed bills include SB 6146 to undo the state’s firearms preemption law, and HB 1122 requiring safe storage of guns.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says the city needs to take matters into its own hands. On Wednesday, March 21, she announced plans to introduce legislation requiring safe storage of guns.

Durkan’s plan

The city attorney and other city officials will meet with gun owners, safety experts, and public health experts in the months ahead to craft the legislation. The legislation would increase the penalties for those who don’t report guns lost or stolen if used in a crime.

The Problem: The state’s firearms Preemption law.

The preemption law has been in place since the 80s. It prohibits cities and counties from an enacting their own regulations on guns beyond what the state does.

Dave Workman, senior editor of the TheGunMag, says it’s a law Seattle has tried to get around before.

“About eight years ago, Seattle tried to prohibit firearms in city park facilities. They were sued by major gun rights groups and they lost — and that was because of the state preemption statute.”

A different story

City Attorney Pete Holmes says it was a different story when gun rights groups sued over Seattle’s guns and ammo tax again, citing the state preemption law.

“It survived preemption challenges by the NRA and last year we won an 8-1 Supreme Court decision affirming our right to do that. And my office will work closely with the mayor and the [city] council to makes sure that we come up with similar legislation and defend the inevitable challenges that come forward.”

Workman says the tax only survived the courts because it was a tax.

“What they’re proposing now — safe storage — that’s not a tax. That’s a gun regulation.”

Mayor Durkan seems to believe whatever legislation they ultimately come up with will survive that test.

“We have to do more. Storing guns safely is part of the solution, it’s not the whole solution. We very much would like the ability to legislate in other areas so that they would remove preemption, but we have this authority under the law. It is not preempted, so we will move forward with those things we can do to keep our families safe, our kids safe and our neighborhood safe.”

The city attorney’s office won’t say what legal advice they’re giving the city council and the mayor to craft this legislation, calling it “privileged.” And State Attorney General Bob Ferguson doesn’t offer interpretations outside the AG opinion process.

Can’t we just require every gun owner get certified?

How exactly the city frames this legislation will be determined in the months ahead. It could include anything from making this tax-related, or labeling this a public health matter — as they did to get the initiative banning safe injection sites shot down.

Whether the proposed legislation survives any expected challenges will be something that plays out down the line.

Workman says most gun owners safely store their weapons and believe everyone safely store their guns, but many oppose laws requiring they do so because they chip away at the Second Amendment.

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