WA Appeals Court Ruling Revives SAF-NRA Challenge to Seattle Gun Law

A Washington Appeals Court has ruled unanimously that a SAF-NRA challenge to a Seattle gun storage ordinance may go to trial, reversing an earlier dismissal of the case by a trial judge. (Dave Workman photo)

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- Washington State’s 35-year-old firearms preemption law got a boost Monday with a unanimous state Appeals Court ruling that reversed and remanded a legal challenge against a so-called “safe storage” regulation adopted by the City of Seattle more than two years ago, essentially in defiance of the statute.

Buried in an early report from KIRO was the confirmation that the city has been receiving pro bono legal help while plaintiffs—the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association—have had no such assistance.

Seattle adopted the storage ordinance in July 2018 and was quickly challenged by SAF and NRA and two Seattle residents, Omar Abdul Alim and Michael Thyng. That October, King County Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde tossed the case on the grounds that plaintiffs lacked standing. She did not rule on whether the storage requirement violated the preemption statute.

At the time, as reported by KIRO7 Eyewitness News, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes declared, “It seems the NRA jumped the gun in filing their lawsuit against this eminently reasonable legislation meant to protect children and the vulnerable.”

But is the legislation reasonable, and is it even legal under the preemption statute? Now the courts will have a chance to make that determination.

Under the ordinance, which took effect in January 2019, gun owners could be fined up to $500 if they didn’t lock up their guns, and up to $1,000 if that gun fell into the hands of a juvenile or some other “unauthorized” person, including someone “at risk,” as reported by KING News at the time. The fine could go to $10,000 if the gun was used to injure or kill another person, or be used in a crime. SAF and NRA said this mandate clearly violates the preemption law, which was originally passed in 1983 and amended and strengthened in 1985. It has not been amended since 1994.

Here’s what the 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.”

But SAF and NRA attorneys Eric Lindberg and Steve Fogg with Corr, Cronin in Seattle appealed. Two years later, a three-judge State Court of Appeals panel led by Acting Chief Judge Beth Andrus ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs did have standing, and that the trial court erred.

An elated Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder and executive vice president, said in a prepared statement, “Now we will have a trial on the merits of the case, which I believe we will win eventually.”

But Gottlieb noted the length of time it took for this decision to come down.

“A lot of our cases in Washington state have been stalled and have taken a long time to actually get resolved,” he said, “and it’s because they really don’t want to rule in our favor but they know eventually they’re going to have to.”

SAF and NRA also sued the City of Edmonds, located north of Seattle, for essentially the same thing and won that case in the trial court. This Appeals Court victory could discourage any further action in the Edmonds case.

It’s no secret Washington State has become a petri dish for gun control experimentation. Everytown for Gun Safety, the billionaire-backed gun prohibition group based in New York, has been involved in the Seattle case. It’s been theorized that this was a test to see how strong state preemption laws might be, since Washington’s statute has served as a model for similar laws in other states.

“Rogue city governments, especially ones that let rioters seize neighborhoods and destroy public and private property, cannot be allowed to skate around state firearms laws,” Gottlieb said, taking a swipe at Seattle’s recent history. “Seattle is not a special fiefdom inside Washington State, where officials can make up their own rules, especially when they directly affect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

He called the city’s effort to erode the preemption law “cavalier.”

Joining Judge Andrus in the unanimous ruling were Judges Stephen Dwyer and Marlin Appelwick. In the ruling, Judge Andrus observed, “The challengers here make an adequate showing that their rights will be or have been adversely affected by the City ordinance. They allege they follow a certain firearm storage practice, the ordinance requires them to alter this practice or risk being in violation of the law, and Alim would have to purchase a gun locker to come into compliance. The facts alleged show an adversarial relationship sufficient to eliminate the risk that a ruling on the merits of their preemption challenge would be an advisory opinion only. We see no basis under the UDJA to require a person to confess to a violation of an ordinance and risk exposure to significant civil infractions before being able to challenge the validity of that ordinance under state law.”

Dan Nolte, with the Seattle City Attorney’s office, told KIRO his office is “reviewing the decision and will confer with our pro bono legal counsel on our potential next steps.”

SAF and NRA will wait to see what those “next steps” might be. The city could appeal this ruling to the state Supreme Court, or opt to take the case to trial on remand.

In the meantime, this amounts to a victory for Washington’s beleaguered gun owners and more fuel for what has been an ongoing effort for decades by anti-gun city officials who want to repeal the preemption statute so they may return to an era of patchwork local laws that confused gun owners and often conflicted with one another.

That’s why the state legislature exercised its authority and took such power away from local governments in the first place. The idea was so good, preemption is now on the books in at least 40 other states in various forms.



About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

Dave Workman

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nobodyuknow
nobodyuknow
1 month ago

Judge Linde needs to be thrown out for “lack of standing”! This law needs to be erased off the books and Judge Linde needs to be erased off the bench!!!

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago

Mybnickel is on Seattle taking it to the Supreme COurt.Their recent track record indicates those “justices” have swallowed the Brady Pill.

gregs
gregs
1 month ago

yea, go ahead and waste more taxpayer money on this unconstitutional mandate.
leftist know that if they make up unconstitutional laws they have the leftist court system to back them up. that was until Trump came along and began nominating originalist judges. (happy face) that it takes years for illegal legislation to go through the court system is itself a slap in the face of freedom.

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  gregs

trouble is, Mr. Trump cannot appint judges to any of the Washington courts at State level. Our Supreme Court is in bed with the same louts thatrun Seattle. Have been for near a decade. That’s why gin rights cases that can be tried under Federal courts have been going to that ssytem, doing an end run round the corrupt State court system. Last electioni four justices stood for reelection, unopposed. That court had not long before reached some nasty decisioins against liberty and rights.

Carter
Carter
1 month ago

I’m rural and even if I wasn’t there is no way I can lock guns up yet have them accessible if my doors are being kicked in, or, if I have to dispatch a coyote, cougar or raccoon quickly. But, my report will always have to be I unlocked it first.

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago

The fact that crooked judges can issue such blatantly incorrect opinions and subvert justice for years needs to be addressed.

And as another mentioned, politicians who vote to create laws that are unconstitutional should be prosecuted as criminals, which they are, seeking to deprive us of our rights under the color of law.

Superman
Superman
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

Incorrect options are currently addressed by the appeal process. Nice try, no cigar. So are you also going to arrest judges who vote in favor of supporting unconstitutional laws? Good luck with that.

Superman
Superman
1 month ago
Reply to  Superman

Whoops! Opinions, not ‘options’.

hippybiker
hippybiker
1 month ago
Reply to  Superman

In the 18th century, Americans used to Tar and Feather Judges that disobeyed the law and run them out of tow. On a rail!

Superman
Superman
1 month ago
Reply to  hippybiker

Yawn. This is 2020. Wake up.

Tionico
Tionico
1 month ago
Reply to  Superman

no matter. We can read for intent. And either way, you’re wrong. Judges are REQUIRED to make rulings consistent with exisitng law. To fob off this case on the bogus declaration that the two individual plaintiffs “lack standing” is the oldest dirty trick in the books. That “ruling” was handed down for the express purpose of denying those plaintiffs their rights under the law. Those judges SHOUD be debenched. But the REAL problem is, money puts those judges in office and keeps them there. Corrupt money. In this state, ur judges are elected. And trying to learn anything signficant about… Read more »

Superman
Superman
1 month ago
Reply to  Tionico

Blah, blah, blah. Then why don’t YOU become a judge and show us all how it SHOULD be done? Put up or shut up.

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago
Reply to  Superman

You have said the same about policing and multiple other careers. Few people can do everything as a career, particularly at the highest level. How many careers have you reached the panicle of? Just because I can do something, does not mean I should not hire an expert to do it so I can focus on what I do better. If I hire a plumber and he leaves me with holes in my walls and leaking pipes – do I not have a right to complain since I should have just fixed it myself? Doing only minor plumbing or Sheetrock… Read more »

gregs
gregs
1 month ago
Reply to  Superman

incorrect opinions should not happen at that level. they are to judge the case on the merits, not their feelings about the case. and yes judges that support unconstitutional laws should be removed from the bench immediately, have their law license invalidated and prosecuted along with the politicians who propose and vote for them.
with power comes responsibility, and that responsibility is to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, not their feelings.
America, love it or get the fuck out!

Superman
Superman
1 month ago
Reply to  gregs

Incorrect opinions occur because judges are human. And opinions don’t (and should not) cause one to become jailed or prosecuted. Grow up.

linkman
linkman
1 month ago

We need a constitutional amendment that provides permanent prohibition of public office/service for anyone that votes for/signs any law, order, or does an act for any egregious violation of a higher law or deprives someone of their civil rights. Prison time can apply.

Almost every violation of preemption by cities lately clearly violates state law. Mandatory secured storage violates DC v Heller.