Brett Bass, an Edmonds resident, legally challenged the city’s ordinance about gun storage. On Monday, a state appeals panel ruled the city cannot enforce its ordinance. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Brett Bass, an Edmonds resident, legally challenged the city’s ordinance about gun storage. On Monday, a state appeals panel ruled the city cannot enforce its ordinance. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Appeals court says Edmonds can’t enforce safe storage gun law

State law “unambiguously” pre-empts the city from enacting its own firearm rules, the panel concludes.

EDMONDS — The city lost another legal round Monday in its attempt to enforce a statute telling residents how to store their guns.

A three-judge state appeals panel ruled unanimously that the city ordinance “regardless of its arguable benefits to public safety” is “unambiguously” pre-empted by state law and provisions of Initiative 1639, a gun safety measure passed by voters in November 2018.

“My reaction is one of relief. It’s nice to see the rule of law still matters,” said Brett Bass, one of three residents who challenged the city law with the assistance of the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.

Monday’s ruling affirms an October 2019 decision by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris preventing the ordinance’s enforcement.

An appeal to the state Supreme Court could be the next step for the city.

“We’re looking at (the ruling) and what we’re going to do next.” said Councilwoman Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. “Any time you lose in court it is a disappointment. If this ordinance may have saved a child’s life because a parent locked away a gun it is worth it.”

Bass would like the legal journey to end here.

“I would hope they would decide this isn’t worth the energy,” he said. “I don’t see how this benefits them or their citizens.”

The Edmonds law, which took effect in March 2019, required gun owners to keep their firearms locked up and inaccessible to others, especially children. It did not apply to firearms carried by or under the control of owners. It did apply to weapons kept at home and in vehicles.

In addition, under the statute, if anyone not permitted to use the gun, such as a child or a thief, got access to the weapon, the owner could be held civilly liable and fined up to $1,000. If an unauthorized person used the firearm to commit a crime or injure themselves or others, the gun owner could be fined again up to $10,000.

The measure was passed in July 2018.

The next month, Bass, Swan Seaberg and Curtis McCullough filed for an injunction contending state law preempts local governments from enacting their own regulations related to the possession of firearms.

In the lawsuit, they point to the plain language of the statute which begins, “The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state.”

In October 2019, Farris mostly agreed, ordering the city to not enforce the storage aspect of the ordinance. She ruled, however, that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the portion of the city law covering unauthorized access to the weapons. Farris allowed them to amend their complaint to demonstrate why they would have standing, which they did.

The city appealed Farris’ ruling, arguing the state law concerning firearm rules is ambiguously worded and does not expressly ban cities from imposing safe storage restrictions such as those spelled out in the Edmonds law.

“We disagree and conclude that the legislature’s express preemption of ‘the entire field of firearms regulation’ is unambiguous and necessarily extends to regulations of the storage of firearms,” wrote Judge Beth Andrus of the Division 1 Court of Appeals.

Justices also pointed out the voter-approved initiative tackled the issue. It contains language making it a crime to store or leave a firearm “in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a prohibited person may gain access to the firearm,” and may misuse the weapon, according to the ruling.

Bass appreciated the panel’s straightforward conclusions.

“It’s nice to get a win,” he said.

Mayor Mike Nelson, who drafted the ordinance when he served as council president, issued a statement Monday committing to continued pursuit of gun safety measures.

“In Edmonds, three years ago a 16-year-old playing Russian roulette shot and killed a 17-year-old girl. This month a 13-year-old boy in Auburn shot his 15-year-old sister while playing with a gun,” he said. “There is no dispute that safe storage of firearms saves lives.”

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

This story has been modified to correct the title of Judge Beth Andrus.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures) 20210304
Masked in a nearly empty theater, a movie outing at last

Just four of us were in the audience for a matinee showing of “Nomadland” at Stanwood Cinemas.

James Myles walks his 5-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ellie around Martha Lake Park on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. Myles entered Ellie into a contest called Americas Favorite Pet, where she's currently in 2nd place for her group. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Vote for Ellie: Fluffy corgi from Lynnwood vying for top dog

“Her Fluffiness” is competing to be America’s Favorite Pet. The contest raised $300,000 for PAWS last year.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

A Marysville Pilchuck football player sports a spear on his helmet as the Tomahawks took on Snohomish in the Wesco 3A Championship Friday evening at Quil Ceda Stadium on November 1, 2019. School district leaders may soon need to consider dropping Marysville Pilchuck High School’s mascot, the Tomahawks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Should Marysville Pilchuck High drop the name ‘Tomahawks’?

A state bill would ban Native American mascots and symbols from schools — unless there is tribal permission.

Snohomish County Council delays education spending vote

The council is now slated to decide next week on the measure, which targets a pre-K learning gap.

Erin Staadecker (left-right) Jael Weinburg and Kaylee Allen with Rosie formed the Edmonds firm Creative Dementia Collective. The company helps memory care patients and care-givers by providing art, music and other creative therapies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This startup offers artful therapy for dementia patients

Creative Dementia Collective uses art and music to help them — and their caregivers.

Darlene Tanis sorts through book titles Thursday morning at the Everett Library on March 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Shrinking the ‘digital divide,’ area libraries slowly reopen

This week, services such as computer and Wi-Fi use — and even book-browsing — were reinstated.

Most Read