City council votes to appeal judge’s ruling invalidating part of Edmonds’ gun storage law

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 a gun storage boxes at an event in July 2018 announcing the proposed Edmonds Safe Storage law. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted 4-3 to appeal an October ruling by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris that invalidated part of an Edmonds’ ordinance requiring that residents safely lock up their firearms or face a fine.

Edmonds’ two-part gun storage measure, approved by the council in July 2018, requires citizens to lock up their guns and allows fines ranging from $1,000 for simple unauthorized possession to up to $10,000 if the gun is used in a crime or someone is hurt as a result of unauthorized access.

Farris ruled Oct. 18 that while the City of Edmonds can’t tell people how to store their guns, it can fine gun owners whose firearms are possessed or used by unauthorized persons.

In August 2018 the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation joined with Edmonds residents Brett Bass, Curtis McCullough and Swan Seaberg to challenge the law in court. Their suit argued that the ordinance violates Washington State’s preemption statute, which grants exclusive authority for gun regulation in Washington to the State Legislature. This was followed by a flurry of legal filings on both sides, with plaintiffs continuing to maintain that the Edmonds measure violates state law and should be struck down, and the City of Edmonds arguing to dismiss the suit on the basis 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 March 2019 Farris denied the city’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs do indeed have standing, thus allowing the suit to proceed.  In June 2019 the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation pulled out of the suit but continued to provide support to the remaining plaintiffs.

Introducing a motion Tuesday night to appeal Farris’s latest ruling, Councilmember Tom Mesaros said the Edmonds law “is not about gun rights. This is about safety and public safety. I would just regret reading something in the news about a child in Edmonds that lost their life due to the careless storage of a firearm. I think we should pursue it for the safety of our city.”

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson spoke against the appeal, stating she believed that Judge Farris was correct in ruling that Edmonds’ law violates the state’s preemption statute. “I believe we are a creature of the state,” Johnson said. “We only get those rights and authorities granted to us from the state. It is a public safety issue and that’s the role of the state Legislature, and I believe that we should not appeal this case. I am 100% for safe storage of guns but I do not think this is the best way to go about it.”

Councilmember Dave Teitzel also said he opposed going forward with the appeal. At the time the city approved its own safe storage law, a proposed statewide gun safety measure — Initiative 1639 — had not yet qualified for the ballot. But that initiative did indeed appear before voters and was approved — so Edmonds no longer needs its own ordinance, Teitzel said. “That initiative has provisions for safe gun storage, it has provisions for enhanced background checks, it has provisions for restrictions on assault rifles, and I wholeheartedly support all of those measures. We do need common sense gun laws in this state and I think 1639 does that,” Teitzel said.

Also speaking against appealing was Councilmember Neil Tibbott, who said he agreed that the state has authority over the matter. “I would like to see the state law have an opportunity to work, I would like to see citizens have an opportunity to abide by the rules of that and see what happens.” Tibbott also asked how much time the city was spending on defending the measure in court, outside of the pro bono services the city is receiving from Everytown for Gun Safety and Summit Law Group of Seattle. City Attorney Jeff Taraday replied that he does attend the court hearings and monitor the progress of the case “but it’s not a significant burden on my time.”

Offering strong statements in support of appealing the ruling, in addition to Mesaros, were Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Mike Nelson.

“The purpose of this law is to prevent gun violence specifically for children,” said Nelson, the original sponsor of the gun safety ordinance. “For every day we wait, another child is shot and killed.” Nelson also noted that Initiative 1639 and the Edmonds ordinance “are different.” The Edmonds law requires gun owners “to safely secure their firearm when it’s not in use to prevent a child from getting access and hurting and killing someone. The key word here is prevent.” Initiative 1639, meanwhile, “encourages someone to secure their firearm,” he said. “It does not require it.”

Among other items Tuesday, the council also discussed the results of an online parking survey the city conducted in late summer. You can see the results of the survey here, but look for a story on it in the next few days. And councilmembers agreed on next steps for reviewing the mayor’s proposed 2020 budget. The goal is to submit amendments by the Nov. 19 council meeting and all follow-up questions to staff by Nov. 26. The hope is to have the final budget approved by Dec. 10.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

39 Replies to “City council votes to appeal judge’s ruling invalidating part of Edmonds’ gun storage law”

    1. Mr. Richardson, a careful reading of the Heller decision is useful. The invalidated law of the District of Columbia was extreme. The Court said: “We must also address the District’s requirement…that firearms in the home be rendered and kept inoperable at all times. This makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.”

      This language does not preclude a safe storage requirement that allows firearms to be stored in operable condition. The Court was concerned about allowing firearms to be used for self defense in the home, thus there should be no prohibition on requiring guns to be locked up when not in the owner’s possession. After all, a gun provides no protection when nobody is home to use it.

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      1. DC v Heller accepted the arguement that a trigger lock rendered a gun unusable. A “staged” gun, like one kept in a dresser drawer, is a gun in use – not a gun in storage. A stored gun is a gun not in use.

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        1. No gun is “in use” if there’s nobody home to use it. To claim otherwise tortures the English language a bit too much. Wise gun owners keep their weapons locked in a gun safe when they leave the premises without them.

          I like what Justice Kavanaugh says about analyzing gun laws based on the Second Amendment’s “text, history and tradition.” That Amendment was written for smooth-bore muzzle-loading muskets; those weapons should indeed be protected by the 2nd Amendment. Today’s far more powerful weaponry (AR-15s, etc.) should be another matter entirely. The Founding Fathers would be horrified at the carnage inflicted on American people by deranged shooters.

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  1. “The purpose of this law is to prevent gun violence specifically for children,” said Nelson, the original sponsor of the gun safety ordinance. “For every day we wait, another child is shot and killed.”
    How many gun deaths are there in Edmonds in a year? How many are children? I’m sure the police or hospitals can answer that.
    I’m not a gun owner, I’m not fond of guns, but I’m less fond of hyperbole and histrionics being used as the basis for city council decisions.

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      1. …locked up before or after the gun was stolen? Mike Nelson’s safe is obviously portable as he is carrying it around during this campaign, and the safe itself can easily be stolen. People who do bad things usually have the code to the safe too, because it’s their safe. No one argues that locking up guns isn’t prudent in most cases. It’s not prudent in all cases. The City Council believes they’re saving lives? How’s traffic and pedestrian safety in the 99 corridor?

        “If it saves even one life, isn’t that worth it?”

        How about 5 lives?
        http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2014/11/edmonds-woman-shoots-home-intruder/

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      2. Erin – no, I didn’t remember that. It’s tragic, no doubt about it. I saw the comment on the article from the young girl’s aunt, and it’s heartbreaking.
        From the article, I have no way of deciding whether the gun being locked up would have mattered. I’d want to know more about how the young man got the gun, before I decide what would have helped.
        Your question proves my point though. If one life makes it worth it, then why make up claims that “another child is shot and killed” in Edmonds “every day we wait”? I could argue that based on his claim, Mr. Nelson doesn’t believe one life is worth it and that it’s got to be a couple hundred to justify the law. Otherwise, why make such an obviously false claim?

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  2. We can take this all the way to SCOTUS if we have to. We do not have to roll over to the gun lobby. We can be the change. Good job, (most of) City Council! Safe storage is important and necessary. Actual responsible gun owners already know this.

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    1. Sam, as I pointed out, storage was already heard by SCOTUS. Also, surveys indicate that most (54%) of guns, all types, are not in a safe. I dare say almost none (maybe 5%) of rifles are in a safe. Just about all gun owners aren’t responsible? Does Mike Nelson own a rifle and does he store it in that safe?

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  3. While I agree that WA state law appears to preempt even common-sense gun rules like requirements for safe storage of firearms, it’s important to keep the gun safety issue in the arena of public discussion. As long as outside organizations are voluntarily covering the city’s expenses, then I support going forward with the appeal.

    Too many tragedies occur when unsecured firearms fall into the hands of children or the mentally troubled. Gun culture needs to change, to the point that all legit gun owners keep their weapons secured when not in their immediate possession.

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  4. I will let the judges decide and interpret the law, and let Council and our future Mayor make a stand where they see fit (after all, four decided, we elected them, and they decided). My issue is two-fold –

    1. “For every day we wait, another child is shot and killed.” – this is just not true. In Edmonds, we had a tragedy in December of last year. A minor, based on what I have read, stole a handgun, and (perhaps because of safety training or lack of gun safety training) inexplicably played Russian Roulette and tragically killed a young woman. Hand-wringing and melodrama have no place here. Councilperson Nelson’s quote may go to hearts and minds – and I believe most of us agree that gun ownership requires responsibility (much like a car), but children are not dying in our streets everyday from gun violence. Dampen the drama, bring facts. Again, the council decided 4-3, we elected them, so be it.

    2. I am going to try to use an analogy to the cost side of this. If I were to come home from Tulalip, and tell my wife that, yes I visit the casino, but it does not take up a considerable amount of my time, I wonder what her response would be. In other words (again, quoting) “City Attorney Jeff Taraday replied that he does attend the court hearings and monitor the progress of the case “but it’s not a significant burden on my time.”” – is not transparent to the tax payers, nor does it address the question of cost. What is the real cost of expenses, time burden, staff time dedicated to this issue to research for Council, enforcement costs (if any), etc. In point 1, they voted 4-3, we elected them, they get to spend the money. They also are responsible and accountable for telling the public what was spent when asked. So really, what are we spending? It would be nice to know if it is $5k, $10k, or just a couple hundred bucks. I get nervous when any attorney says “it is not a significant burden on my time”, because I still get a bill for the insignificant issue I had them working.

    Hopefully we are not setting a precedent where drama rules and financial facts get obscured. If the financial burden equates to crappier sidewalks, less maintenance, less immediate care for the needs of the citizens of Edmonds, then we, as the folks who inevitably foot the bill for any legal costs, need be to kept abreast of what the Council has decided to spend. (Again, we elected them, they voted 4-3, and we have to deal with that.)

    This is no different than points I have made in the past, whether it be the Roundabout at Five Corners or any other City project or initiative. Set a budget, report on the cost, and let the constituents actually see transparent government.

    So questions again –

    1. How much in real dollars has this cost?
    2. How much staff time has been dedicated to this issue?
    3. How much have we spent in implicit costs? (i.e. The lump sum legal contract equates to hours and dollars, can that be extrapolated)?

    Then we can all raise hell about how Council has decided to spend the money, but it sure would be nice if the 4 “Ayes” would hold themselves accountable and report what they have spent, and what they are planning to spend to see this through.

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    1. George, not to disagree, people are dying in streets – just not via guns. Highway 99 Corridor pedestrian safety is in the City Council purview. You’re making too much sense.

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  5. Why is the outgoing Mayor, directing the future budget? Should it be that those exiting the City Council and the exiting Mayor, determine what the future budget should be for the city for the coming year? Obviously in order for the city to function there must be a requirement to fund the services and employees to the end of the fiscal calendar year. It would also seem logical that there may be changes in focus or budget that should be left for the existing and newly elected members to work together for the financial year of 2020.

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  6. George’s points are great. We elected them, we lobby them, we contribute to their campaigns.

    The next major event is the budget. Next week council is suppose to have all their questions about the budget ready for staff to answer. Then we will see all the council members budget requests. Should be interesting to see what comes to the table for funding.

    After the budget stuff is done we will set a new cast of leaders:

    2020 Edmonds Leadership
    Mayor Mike Nelson

    Council Members:
    Pos. 1. Kristiana Johnson
    Pos. 2. Vacant
    Pos. 3. Adrienne Fraley-Monilas
    Pos. 4. Diane Buckshnis
    Pos. 5. Vivian Olson
    Pos. 6. Susan Paine
    Pos. 7. Laura Johnson

    These council members will fill the vacant position. Probably won’t take 57 ballots this time. Will those who lost apply? Probably. Will they run in 2 years? They already have the signs, just need to tape over for the new position number. We could have an all female council!

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  7. George…fabulous points. Follow the money. I would love to know how much money was estimated when they originally started the gun project. Because you have lock boxes, will that stop all children from being killed? Don’t know the stats on that. How many are shot to death vs drugs? My guess drugs win out. Most people are responsible with guns. Will another law stop this? Probably not. The strictest gun laws in our states have the highest crime with guns.
    You can’t mandate responsibility, like common sense, you either have it or you don’t and never will.

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  8. Idiocy like this is exactly why I did not vote for SJW Nelson. I know Mike is a bit dim, but I find it hard to believe he is unable to understand that this was unconstitutional out of the gate. I recall he did approach the city council members of the Peoples Republic of Seattle before ramming this misguided ‘law’ through. That’s exactly what we need…advice from the people that turned Seattle into the biggest dump in the state. Pretty sure Mike’s long term plan will be to transform Edmonds into a vagrant infested wasteland just like his heroes on the SCC did to their city. What a disaster this guy is going to be…and an embarrassment.

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    1. What an unpleasant place Edmonds has become with this sort of substance-free name-calling and broad-brushing. It’s downright embarrassing to think that out of town friends might read this sort of thing.

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      1. Fact: The law as written is in direct violation of the state constitution.

        Fact: Mike Nelson contacted Seattle city council members for advice on how to push the storage law through.

        Fact: Seattle has seen an explosion of vagrants over the past ten years due to the rights of said vagrants being prioritized over tax paying citizens. (another fun fact for you Nathaniel, we had out of town friends visit this summer and their four year old witnessed a vagrant with his pants around his ankles at Pike Place. You wouldn’t find that embarrassing for your out of town “friends”?)

        Fact: Mike Nelson is dead set on aping the Seattle policies that have sent it into its current tailspin.

        Sorry that you consider facts unpleasant. When the first vagrant tent pops up in Edmonds will you proudly show it to your “out of town friends’ or would you be too embarrassed?

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  9. Rather than the SnowFlake agenda items of gun storage appeals, how about fixing some of the potholes in and around Edmonds??

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    1. Can we avoid “contempt signaling'” with sweeping prejudicial phrases such as “snowflake”? They serve only to poison the wells and block substantive argument. They do not belong in a civic discussion.

      I agree wholly about the potholes – and some of our sidewalks (where we even have them!).

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  10. Jeff Gray,

    FACT: There are already families living in tents in Edmonds and Mike is not even Mayor yet.

    FACT: Your fact about Mike wanting to adopt Seattle policies is an assumption. Not a fact.

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  11. Thank you Mr. Brown for your good efforts on behalf of civility in Edmonds. Your thoughts echo my own.
    It’s worrisome that anyone feels the need to be armed with deadly force to protect themselves from homeless people.

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  12. As the former board chair of Washington Kids in Transition, a Nonprofit that supports homeless kids in the Edmonds School District, I can tell you that they exist. Unfortunately, due to privacy laws I can’t tell you where.

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  13. You don’t have to be living in a tent to be homeless in Edmonds. You might be living in a car or on a friend’s couch for example. We know at least one homeless person has lived in a tent in one of our major parks, because we found him dead there. For that matter, what does this issue have to do with locking up guns or not? Why would the new mayor desire to “ape” so called Seattle policies that supposedly promote homelessness and people living in tents? What is the basis of such an absurd accusation as that? It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that much of what we read in these comments is biased drivel and pretty much a waste of time to read.

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    1. Q: Why would the new mayor desire to “ape” so called Seattle policies?
      A: Mike Nelson was in direct communication with Seattle on their Gun Control efforts (without the rest of the City Council even knowing what he was up to). Even Seattle gave Mike the cold shoulder as he complained in his emails to them. Google around “Mike Nelson”. I like Edmonds, but we sorta deserve Mike as mayor.
      https://mynorthwest.com/1074740/edmonds-councilmember-secretly-coordinates-seattle-sued/

      Q: Where are people living in tents in Edmonds?
      A: I reported on a shooting gallery (a tent) fashioned out of Ed! Umbrellas.
      https://myedmondsnews.com/2018/09/letter-to-the-editor-welcome-to-new-edmonds/

      A question I have, does anyone in this town deny that Seattle made homelessness much worse?

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      1. Right on Heather. The recent election was the status quo vs. change and change pretty much won the day in the end as I predicted it would. I based my preferences on past actions of the various candidates, not a bunch of self serving statements from them and their supporters or, worse, their detractors. The ideological word salad we have taken to using now to dump on each other verbally here and nationally is accomplishing nothing except to make us all look and sound small.

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        1. Clinton, your question got answered, with links provided. Mike Nelson tried to lap-dog Seattle on the gun storage laws. Even the activists in Seattle were trying to distance themselves from him. Mike didn’t even tell the other people on the City Council what he was up to. You’re dumping on people verbally, and you didn’t answer the follow-up question which would have moved discussion and understanding forward.

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    2. It’s the same people, making the same arguments. It’s tiresome. Lots of falsehoods, lots of fear mongering, lots of sketchy YouTube links. It all boils down to the same thing. Their power and the status quo has been challenged.
      Change is afoot – positive change. Most of us are more than ready for it.

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