Less than two weeks after Seattle passed a law requiring gun owners to safely lock up their firearms or face potential civil penalties, gun advocates are suing to stop the law from taking effect.
The National Rifle Association and Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit Friday claiming the new regulations violate state law.
The city law, proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and approved by the Seattle City Council, creates a tiered set of civil penalties for people who fail to safely store their guns. Fines range from $500 to $10,000 depending on whether the gun is accessed and used to injure someone. Supporters said it will help prevent suicides, thefts of guns, and accidental injuries. The law is set to take effect in six months.
State law bars local governments from regulating 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.” Known as preemption, such laws are backed by the NRA and other groups.
"The City of Seattle has been trying to erode state preemption almost from the moment it was passed back in 1985," Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in a statement. "We should not have to repeatedly remind Seattle that they are still part of Washington State and must obey the law."
During a city council committee discussion on the safe storage legislation, a staffer for Durkan said he did not believe the law fell into one of the categories identified in state preemption.
Along with the NRA and SAF, two Seattle gun owners who keep their firearms unlocked at home are bringing the suit.
Each gun owner has "a strong desire to continue having his firearm in an unlocked and usable state in his home as his training and experience tell him that a person cannot be reasonably expected to access a locked firearm under the time and pressure imposed by a home invasion" and "fears enforcement of the ordinance were he to continue his possession of an unlocked firearm," the suit claims.
The suit names the City of Seattle, Durkan, the Seattle Police Department, and Chief Carmen Best. The city law tasks the SPD with determining how exactly to define safe storage through a rule-making process.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the city law is null and void as well as attorney's fees.
Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that advocates for gun safety measures, has already said it would defend the city pro bono. The mayor's office, city attorney, and police department did not immediately provide comment. I'll update this post when they do.
UPDATE: Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement the lawsuit was "no surprise."
"The mayor and council are trying to prevent children from accessing guns with this safe storage legislation," Holmes said. "If the NRA and SAF want to be on record fighting responsible gun ownership, that’s their choice. Our legal defense will come at no cost to the taxpayer, thanks to Everytown for Gun Safety and Orrick LLP’s offer to represent the city pro-bono in this lawsuit."
Durkan said, “We are taking urgent action to save lives, and the NRA and SAF want to stop it. We will prevail and will continue to push for more protection for our children and community. While they go to court – kids go to the hospital. We can’t prevent every gun death or injury, we can take steps to help prevent tragedies.”