Edmonds City Council votes to appeal gun storage law ruling

In a 4-3 vote, council members argued whether the city could take gun laws further than the state.

EDMONDS — The debate over whether the city of Edmonds can tell its residents how to store their guns isn’t over.

The City Council narrowly passed a resolution Tuesday night to appeal a decision made by a Snohomish County Superior Court judge that ruled the city’s mandate on gun storage violated state law.

In a 4-3 vote, the motion to appeal passed, but members were split on whether the city has the authority to enforce the law that requires gun owners to keep their firearms locked up and inaccessible to others, especially children.

Shortly after the gun storage law was passed in July 2018, three Edmonds residents, with the help of the National Rifle Association and Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the city.

In October, Judge Anita Farris granted a summary judgment ordering the city not to enforce the storage aspect of the ordinance, but upheld part of the law that says a person could be fined up to $1,000 if someone, such as a child or thief, gets unauthorized access to a gun.

And if an unauthorized person uses the firearm to commit a crime or injure themselves or others, the gun owner could be fined again, up to $10,000.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said it’s “ironic that every time there’s a shooting, there’s preaching that occurs from the dais,” yet some members don’t want to continue the legal battle.

“I’m not taking people’s firearms away from them,” she said. “I think that would be inappropriate. I just want them to lock them away from children.”

Council members Neil Tibbott, Dave Teitzel and Kristiana Johnson all opposed trying to reverse the court’s decision. They all said the city doesn’t have the authority to counteract state law.

“I am 100% for safe storage of guns but I do not think this is the best way to go about it,” Teitzel said.

He cited Initiative 1639, which passed in 2018 and introduced a slew of gun laws, including one that establishes criminal liability for failing to safely secure a firearm.

Councilman and Mayor-elect Mike Nelson said the initiative assigns liability, but doesn’t force gun owners to properly store their firearms.

Joining the city in the lawsuit are Seattle-based Summit Law Group and Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun control advocacy group. The city’s financial burden is minimal, city attorney Jeff Taraday said.

“You couldn’t get a much better deal for us,” Fraley-Monillas said.

Tibbott said he wasn’t sure how effective the city’s law would be.

“Even with a trigger lock on a gun, they can be removed by a criminal after they’ve been stolen,” he said.

He also said it took a friend of his 12 minutes to lock his gun and two to unlock it, which he did with bolt cutters.

Nelson, who supported the appeal, said, “I’m not aware of children running around with bolt cutters.”

Council members Tom Mesaros and Diane Buckshnis also voted for the appeal.

“I would regret reading something in the news about a child in Edmonds that lost their life due to the careless storage of a firearm,” Mesaros said.

The Edmonds law is similar to one in Seattle that was also challenged by the National Rifle Association.

A King County judge tossed out that case in October, and that decision also was appealed to a higher court.

Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said there’s a silver lining to the case going to a higher court.

“If we win it’ll give our ruling more legs to cover other cities and jurisdictions,” he said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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