Well that didn’t take long.
Today, the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation jointly filed a lawsuit on behalf of themselves, their members residing in Seattle, and two named individuals challenging the city’s ordinance requiring firearms to be locked up when not in the personal possession of their owner or an authorized user.
The City Council passed the ordinance on July 9th, and Mayor Durkan signed it into law earlier this week.
The complaint’s legal argument is very simple: state law preempts the city from regulating firearms. And it does, as I laid out in my previous post on the topic. The complaint also cites a 2011 state appeals court ruling striking down a Seattle administrative rule banning firearms in parks department facilities; that court ruling affirmed both that state law does in fact generally preempt firearms regulation except where explicitly authorized by the state, and also that it specifically prohibits regulating the possession of firearms.
That’s the sole legal issue in the case, and it will likely be resolved quickly; there are no facts to be determined, it’s simply a question of legal interpretation. The complaint asks the court to declare the ordinance to be null and void, and it also asks for an injunction preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance. After the initial paperwork is done and the city files its answer to the complaint, expect both sides to file motions for summary judgment. Since the legal questions aren’t complex, the trial court could rule before the end of the year. Undoubtedly whichever side loses will appeal the ruling, but that could also move rapidly through the appeals court.
However, the legal issue is obscured by the political rhetoric gathering around the ordinance. The NRA of course positions their lawsuit as defending citizens’ Second Amendment rights from a city that wants to “further their anti-gun agenda by targeting the self-defense rights of Seattle residents,” though the Second Amendment Foundation chooses to speak more directly to the state preemption issue, accusing the city of trying to “break the law to adopt an ordinance as a political statement.” The Mayor responded by tweeting this afternoon, “The @NRA decided to sue me and @carmenbest in addition to @CityofSeattle. If they think we are intimidated, they are mistaken. I will continue to fight for our kids.” and also “While they go to court – kids go to the hospital.” The Seattle Times quotes City Attorney Pete Holmes today saying, ““Frankly, this is no surprise. The Mayor and Council are trying to prevent children from accessing guns with this Safe Storage legislation. If the NRA and SAF want to be on record fighting responsible gun ownership, that’s their choice.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a self-described “movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities,” has committed to defend the city pro bono from legal challenges to the ordinance, including the one filed today.
10.79.020 Safe storage of firearms: “…weapon shall be deemed lawfully stored or lawfully kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user”. “under control of owner” may allow for a firearm to be kept out of a locked storage container if the owner has control of the area. For example, on a nightstand in the bedroom or elsewhere in a secured home when the owner is present. Does that sound right?
I don’t know what case law says about the definition of “under the control of the owner” but I suspect it would have to be within easy reach and within the power of the owner to prevent someone else from accessing it. So in a bedroom nightstand is in bed might work, but probably not in another room of the house even when the owner is home. Again, though, I’m just guessing based on a “plain reading” of the ordinance.
The wording “under the control of the owner” is vague. Is it physical control or constructive control? Someone is going to need to define it.
It’s probably defined in case law.
Yes, the gunners are out defending their right to careless and negligent storage of their firearms. I’m old enough to remember when the NRA was all for gun safety. That was before the firearms lobby/gun industry took it over in 1977 and turned the NRA to political priorities rather than safety.
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