Judge rules that legal challenge to Edmonds’ safe firearm storage law can proceed

During a news conference announcing the city's gun storage legislation, City Council President Mike Nelson shows off one of his personal lock boxes where he secures his own guns.
Edmonds City Councilmember Mike Nelson demonstrates safe and secure gun storage boxes at an event in July 2018 announcing the proposed Edmonds Safe Storage law. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Proponents of Edmonds’ safe firearms storage ordinance suffered a setback Tuesday as Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita L. Farris ruled that the legal challenge brought against the law may proceed.

Under Edmonds’ gun storage ordinance, proposed last July by then-City Council President Mike Nelson and approved by the Edmonds City Council later that month, those failing to secure their firearms could face a civil infraction of up to $500. If a child or other prohibited person gains access to a firearm that should have been secured, the violator can be fined up to $1,000. If someone is hurt as a result of that person gaining access, the fine increases to up to $10,000.

Plaintiffs in the suit against the Edmonds law include the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, and several local residents. Their suit argues that Edmonds’ ordinance violates Washington State’s preemption statute, , which grants exclusive authority for gun regulation in Washington to the State Legislature.  The City of Edmonds contended that the plaintiffs “lacked standing,” a technical argument meaning that they would suffer no harm should the ordinance move forward and hence have no stake in the outcome and cannot file suit.

In her Tuesday, March 19 court decision, Judge Farris ruled that the plaintiffs do indeed have standing, opening the way for their challenge to proceed.

Local reaction was swift.

“This is a narrow and preliminary ruling,” said Eric Tirschwell, litigation director for Everytown Law and co-counsel with the City of Edmonds. “We look forward to continuing to defend the city’s efforts to require and promote responsible storage of firearms as the case continues.”

Nelson reiterated his stance that “safe storage laws save lives. This procedural ruling will not stop our community from protecting our children from gun violence,” Nelson said. “We will continue working to prevent gun violence from reaching our schools, our streets, and our homes.  We’re looking forward to trial standing up for our children’s safety.”

— By Larry Vogel

  1. Common sense and Initiative 1639 should rule the day. Being a responsible gun owner means taking responsibility for your gun. Period. Our communities deserve at least that much. Safe storage saves lives. I stand with Mike Nelson.

  2. Gun rights and gun safety can coexist. More than 70 percent of the gun deaths in this state are suicides. Guns are the most lethal means of suicide, so restricting access to guns through safe and responsible storage is a proven way to save lives. Experts tell us that suicide is most often an act of impulse, and often there are no outward signs of suicidal intent. Given that level of risk, and given that violent crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, and given the availability of storage devices providing nearly immediate access to the stored weapon, the opposition to this law seems a disingenuous move by the gun lobby. I’m sure responsible members of the gun-owning support safe storage as an important life-saving measure.

  3. I clicked on the `preemption statue, RCW 9.41.290 and the response `The citation you requested could not be found.’
    I agree with the previous two comments stated by readers.
    I am not sure if it was two or three years ago, the state legislature was attempting to take legislative action regarding `gun control’. The day there was to be discussion and vote (and perhaps before that time) some `patriotic’ persons, at least a dozen or more, decided to express their rights and entered the legislature and sat up in the balcony with their guns and rifles. Their weapons were fully on display and there was no law that stated that guns, automatic weapons, rifles, etc. could not be carried into the legislature.
    The President of New Zealand is taking action on gun control, smart woman.

  4. Fantastic! Now Edmonds tax payers will be on the hook to defend this when Nelson knew going in that it was unconstitutional. Think Nelson will chip in any of his own cash? Nope, he wants us to pay for the results of his pathetic virtue signalling.

    1. Oh, don’t worry about that. Bloomberg has bottomless pockets, I’m sure he will fund this aggressively. Just as he did for the I-1639 Immaculate Deception.

      Too bad the RCW is perfectly clear on this issue.

      On a positive note, gun safes are exempt from sales tax here.

      If safety is the underlying issue behind this move, then why not push for more incentives to buy a safe?

      “Affordable housing” has become a mantra here. For several-orders-of-magnitude less money, would it not make sense to look at affordable means of safe gun storage?

  5. Time to lock up your car Mike. Cars cause more deaths than guns. Oh wait! You can unlock your garage before pulling your car out to go to work, without any worry. You may not have time to unlock that gun case while the home break in is happening at 2:00AM and you fear for your life. This sounds like some nightmare HOA scenario where we can be fined $10,000 for leaving our car outside the garage overnight. Also, if someone wants to commit suicide they will find a way. (Drugs, knives, bridges, hanging, and lastly guns.) Sad, but true. Perhaps we should lock them up so you people will know that they are safe.

    1. The primary purpose of a car is transportation. The purpose of a gun is killing, so conflating the two is disingenuous. But granting that unsafe operation of a vehicle can be extremely dangerous, we have passed numerous laws to promote safety and save lives and enforce consequences when vehicles are operated in an unsafe manner. So why would we not do the same for a lethal weapon? Nobody is saying that you cannot own or operate a gun or a car, just as long as you own and operate it in a way not deleterious to public safety. If you’re a responsible owner/operator, you have nothing to fear and there is no infringement of your right to bear arms. You’re responsible, correct? So what’s the objection?

      1. Very well argued, Sue! Thank you. One could also observe that cars are necessary to living in our environment, while firearms are not. I take the keys out of my car when I’m not using it, and I can lock it in the garage and bring it out when needed. Safes are mandated for general storage to prevent theft and accidents; there is nothing to say that a gun owner can’t bring his gun out at night and keep it by his bed if he feels the need.

  6. Joe, your statement about suicide is 100% not true. My husband attempted suicide with a firearm and lived. He is now blind and living with a severe traumatic brain injury. He has told me, his friends and therapists that he would not have done it if he did not have access to a gun.

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