AmmoLand News Exclusive Interview
Washington – -(Ammoland.com)- The lead plaintiff in a successful Washington state lawsuit upholding the state’s 35-year-old firearms preemption law has provided a lengthy statement to Ammoland News, explaining his zeal for the case, which resulted in a unanimous ruling by the state Supreme Court.
The case, known as Bass v. City of Edmonds, is named for Brett Bass, a certified firearms instructor and Second Amendment activist. The lawsuit was filed in August 2018 after Edmonds adopted a so-called “safe storage” ordinance that clearly was a challenge to the state preemption statute. Bass called it an “illegal publicity stunt.”
Leading the case where the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association, joined by Bass and two other private citizens—both Edmonds residents—Swan Seaberg and Curtis McCullough. SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told AmmoLand News he was surprised and gratified that the ruling was unanimous.
Washington’s high court is wholly liberal; not a single conservative sits on that bench.
The ruling was signed by Chief Justice Steven C. González, underscoring the gravity of the decision.
In comments sent to AmmoLand News via email, Bass stated;
“I’m grateful to the legal team who did the four years of hard work to lead up to the Washington State Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision. It also needs to be mentioned that this victory would not have been possible without the support of the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association of America. I would also be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation for the sound judgment of the members of the court. Thank you.
“I agreed to serve as plaintiff in this case,” Bass continued, “because I believe that the rule of law is important to our society. Washington State passed among the first state preemption laws in 1983, serving as a role model of responsible governance in the defense of civil rights that are enumerated in article 1, section 24 of the Washington constitution. Over the next several decades, a dozen other states followed Washington’s model by fully preempting the ability of counties and municipalities to regulate firearms and another forty preempted smaller subdivisions of government from passing firearms ordinances to some degree.
“In spite of clear and longstanding statutory language in RCW 9.41.290 and members of the city council itself stating that their attempt to regulate firearms storage in the home would not pass legal muster,” he wrote, “activists persuaded the city government to break state law in passing a firearm ordinance. The courts have correctly sided with my argument that this blatant violation of the rule of law is indefensible. Unfortunately, this stunt by the city government wasted years of the judiciary’s time and untold sums of money.”
“Most frustrating, however,” Bass revealed, “has been the persistent insistence by some to wrongly frame this case as virtuous and caring Good People who want to save children and dislike mass murders and callous, possibly corrupt Bad People who are in favor of dead children. This is a stunning, hurtful, and disingenuous caricature that is below those entertaining it.”
In a statement to the media quoted by the Seattle Times, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson said the ruling “feels barbaric.” He admonished the decision, decrying “The repeated failure of the state and federal government to implement these commonsense safety measures to protect our children from gun violence…”
Nelson added this complaint, quoted by KING, the Seattle NBC affiliate: “On the one hand we can prohibit someone from smoking in a park, but we can’t prohibit them from bringing a handgun into a playground. Does that make sense?”
Gottlieb marveled at this, noting to AmmoLand News there is no right to smoke in a park, but there is a right—protected specifically in both the U.S. & Washington State constitutions—to bear arms.
But Bass explained, “I have worked as a certified rifle and pistol marksmanship instructor for nearly a decade, and I have trained thousands of citizens (including federal and local law enforcement & corrections officers, Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, survivors of domestic violence, and others) in the safe, lawful, and effective use of firearms in the context of self-defense. In every Entry-level Handgun class I have taught, I have explicitly taught that those owning firearms purchase a safe and use it. The most important day-to-day ‘job’ for anyone who owns firearms is preventing unauthorized people from accessing those firearms.”
Despite Bass’ goodwill and the unanimous smackdown by the high court, Evergreen State anti-gunners appear to be doubling down.
Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose disastrous term included the 2020 Antifa “summer of love” that saw the city suffer repeated rioting, looting, and property damage, is calling on anti-gun Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session of the Legislature this summer “to address the wave of gun violence facing our state.”
Current Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell did not immediately react, probably too caught up in a visit to the city by Joe Biden to celebrate “Earth Day.”
Harrell knows his city is also being sued by SAF & NRA, and some city residents, in a nearly-identical action challenging Seattle’s “safe storage” ordinance. The state high court ruling possibly nullifies Seattle’s ordinance as well.
There is no small irony in this case since two months ago Harrell held a press event during which he erroneously declared;
“You will hear this year me lead efforts on trying to get relief from the exemption RCW 9.41.290. You’ll hear me talking about that. I don’t know how many lives have to be lost before we realize we’re one of the few states that has that kind of restriction allowing the state to govern the laws we need for our city of Seattle.”
Gottlieb quickly blasted Harrell’s remark, noting there are currently 42 states with preemption laws, many modeled after Washington’s statute.
Harrell is the scheduled keynoter for the April 27 annual fundraising luncheon held by the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group that’s been pushing for the repeal of state preemption. Expect him to use the opportunity to demand the repeal of the model statute.
Here is what the statute 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.”
There is little “wiggle room” in this text, which is why municipal anti-gunners want it erased. City leaders in other states with preemption statutes dislike the situation as well. Striking down Washington’s law would be more than just a symbolic victory for the gun prohibition lobby. They would, activists quietly suggest, use their victory to attack other states’ preemption laws, reversing years of rational gun law uniformity to restore a political environment of gun law chaos.
The ruling will almost certainly bring another round of legislation sponsored by Seattle’s far-left state legislators to gut the law, dating back to 1985. Seattle once before challenged the law unsuccessfully by adopting a park regulation prohibiting firearms in city park facilities. That effort quickly brought a lawsuit from SAF, NRA, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Washington Arms Collectors, and several private citizens.
Anti-gun local municipal leaders have despised preemption almost since the time it was signed into law. The law took away from them the power to adopt confusing and sometimes conflicting local ordinances restricting the rights of gun owners moving from city to city. Preemption brought uniformity to state law, and the common sense approach appealed to legislatures across the country.
Meanwhile, Bass—who served as one of the two statutorily-required representatives of the firearms industry on a state legislative suicide prevention task force—noted in his statement to AmmoLand News;
“I daresay that my work has objectively done more to further the laudable goal of safer storage of firearms than the city of Edmonds’ illegal publicity stunt, and I have the peer-reviewed, published data to support that sentiment. Unlike the (unlawful) and punitive nature of the city government’s approach to safe firearm storage, my program has worked collaboratively with firearms owners and industry, law enforcement, public health professionals, veteran service organizations, philanthropy, loss survivors, and other key stakeholders, including organizations such as the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Grandmothers Against Gun Violence in addition to the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association.”
Responding directly to Edmonds Mayor Nelson’s comment, Bass concluded, “The court did not act barbarically; it acted by applying the law as it was very clearly written. Which is more than I can say for the government of the city of Edmonds.”
Washington State Lawsuit upholding the state’s 35-year-old firearms preemption law
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