There was actually some good news out of the state of Washington this week, a sentence we don’t get a chance to say very often these days. Back in 2018, the City Council in Edmonds, Washington passed an oppressive new set of gun control measures involving restrictions on the storage of firearms in the home and liability for the misuse of firearms by people other than the owner. That law was immediately challenged on multiple fronts and tied up in the courts. There had already been some setbacks for supporters of the law, with injunctions being issued against one portion of the law or the other. This week, however, the Court of Appeals put the matter to rest by unanimously striking down the entire thing. (Free Beacon)
A Washington appeals court struck down an onerous local gun storage ordinance in a victory for Second Amendment activists, who pushed a state law designed to stop strict gun laws from popping up in liberal localities.
The Court of Appeals for the State of Washington unanimously ruled Edmonds, Washington, violated state law when it instituted rules for how people must store firearms inside their own homes. The ordinance conflicts with a law that blocks localities from making their own gun regulations. Second Amendment activists advanced so-called state preemption laws to protect gun owners from having to navigate a patchwork of local regulations. Gun-control activists have objected to such laws as being too restrictive on local authority.
The Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association, which jointly filed the suit against the ordinance, cheered the ruling.
This ruling may not serve as any sort of precedent in terms of infringements on the Second Amendment because of the narrow way the case was argued. Rather than ruling on whether or not the City of Edmonds had the ability to restrict how firearms are stored, the plaintiffs argued that existing state law bans local and municipal governments from enacting their own laws that go above and beyond state regulations. In the end, this turned out to be a case of state preemption and the courts agreed.
You can read the original ordinance here. The law mandated that any firearm not actively being carried by the owner or another lawfully authorized user be “secured by a locking device” while in the home. That would apply even if you don’t have children or even live alone. Additional penalties would apply if a minor or “at-risk person” gained access to the firearm if the owner “knows or should have known” that such access was possible.
One of the main purposes of using preemption in cases like this is to avoid having the state devolve into a patchwork of different gun control laws. Such a situation puts people at risk of running afoul of the laws if they travel about the state and aren’t aware of the changes.
As opposed to the issues of precedent I mentioned above, there is one specific place where this ruling may wind up providing a definitive precedent. The plaintiffs in this challenge have a very similar case pending against the City of Seattle. The city passed an ordinance with wording almost identical to the one in Edmonds and it too has been challenged. It’s difficult to see how Seattle could wind up prevailing now that this decision has been logged in the books.