Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently announced a plan to ban guns at all city facilities, including parks, Seattle Center and community centers. He was already kicking against the restrictions of Washington’s state preemption law- a state statute that absolutely restricts the regulatory authority of local governments when it comes to almost everything pertaining to firearms. The legislature’s rationale was to make sure that checkerboard laws do not make gun ownership and sales impracticable on a jursidiction by jurisdiction basis.
A man with a Concealed Pistol License injured two people in a shooting at the Northwest Folklife Festival at Seattle Center. Apparently there was some kind of scuffle, possibly occurring when someone decided to grab his weapon because of concerns about safety (something that should have been dealt with by the police- not self help- if the concern was well-founded). The incident became a triggering event for the Mayor to hold a news conference with Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske (also an advocate of further gun controls, Chief Kerlikowske is known around our area as the chief that let his weapon get stolen from his unlocked vehicle). Mayor Nickels declared “Our parks, our community centers and our public events are safer without guns.”
The executive order, which does not require City Council approval, will apply even to citizens with a concealed-weapon permit.
Violators will be considered trespassers and asked to leave city property, but the city does not have authority to impose fines or jail time (due to the above referenced preemption statute:
The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including 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. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.
Many state legislators are asking the state Attorney General’s Office to issue an opinion as to the Mayor’s announcement. The order directs city departments to report back to Nickels within thirty days with a plan to implement the policy, so the state AG’s office is reluctant to plunge into the fray where restrictions are contemplated but not actually imposed at this time.
According to one local news article, Nickels stated the city will start by posting signs in city buildings such as City Hall:
The mayor said he hopes the city will not have to require pat-downs or metal detectors in city buildings, but suggested those measures as a possibility for festival organizers of events such as Bumbershoot at Seattle Center.
“I would not be surprised if there is a challenge to our authority on this,” Nickels said. He said a recent lawsuit involving the city of Sequim may give him authority to ban concealed weapons on city property.
The Sequim case involved gun show operators that sued the City of Sequim for interference with contractual relations when the City required that the premises (the venue for the gunshow was owned by the City) would be restricted to gun sales by dealers only. The court held that where the City was acting in a capacity similar to a private business, imposition of some restriction on gun sales did not violate RCW 9.41.290.
See Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association v City of Sequim, 158 Wash.2d 342 (2006).
Many Washington localities have already been doing what Mayor Nickels wants to do. Cities like Federal Way have simply been violating the state preemption law without advertising it. The Mayor of Seattle thinks he can throw around enough weight to make the legislature cave-in to his fiat. The Washington State legislature is so heavily Democrat that it often seems impossible to block most of the Demsocratic majorities wishes.
So far, there have been enough Democrats from Eastern Washington and Republican stalwarts to hold the line on gun laws. Those “blue dog” Dem and GOP lawmakers must feel like the the boy with his thumb holding back a flood of firearms restrictions, but every year they manage to keep a number of laws (like gun show restrictions) from getting reported out of committee.
It is going to be interesting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in DC v Heller will impact the lawmakers in state capitals around the country. Already cities in Illinois and other states are amending their laws. Morton Grove, Illinois, for instance, is busy modifying its longstanding restrictions. If a future Court is composed of justices like Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens and Kennedy the issues may be relitigated so the upcoming presidential election is critical!
The difference between Constiturional strict constructionists and those that worship at the altar of “the Living Constitution” is that conservatives obey judge-made laws even when we do not agree with them. Many of the media hacks have been denouncing DC v Heller as judical activism and Washington, DC announced that it will register revolvers but not semi-autos! To call such conduct passive-aggressive behavior is an understatement. It is more like lawlessness on the part of the authorities in Washington, DC. It is no wonder there is so much crime on the streets. When the powers that be are not setting criminals loose or spending our tax dollars to promote some new social lunacy, they are busy finding ways to prevent us from effectively defending ourselves.
By the way, people in the inner-cities are most often the victims of violence and are often afraid to testify in court. For such folks (like the citizens of Washington, DC), the issue of defending one’s home and family is not an academic exercise in pettifoggery and parsing legal hairs. Not with gangs of drug dealers ruling the streets.
In order to make such claims, the “newspapers of record” claim that it is settled Constitutional doctrine that the Second Amendment only protects state militias. If you said such a thing to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson or John Adams they would think you had lost your mind! So much for objectivity.
We need to start registering journalists; but just in the big cities, because that is where all the major journalistic crimes are being fomented. We can start with NYC and then move to Chicago, Washington, DC and San Francisco.
Every registered journalist will be required to keep a key-lock on his or her keyboard. If one of these journalists tries to defend herself in writing by calling me (or anyone like me) a right-wing fanatic, ignorant redneck or lawyer affiliated with the religious right, the feds should revoke his/her license and prosecute for brandishing an automatically-keyed writing utensil with intent to intimidate.
The First Amendment balancing test will apply, of course. I am not in favor of chilling freedom of speech!