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Court Rules that Seattle Gun Ban is Illegal

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Washington state Court of Appeals affirmed this week that a gun ban in Seattle's parks is illegal.  The decision comes more than a year after a King County judge sided with several area gun owners, the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation, and the city of Seattle appealed. 

In 2008, the City of Seattle and then-Mayor Greg Nickels (D) enacted a rule that banned firearms and “dangerous weapons” from city parks, community centers and other city properties. In 2009, the city added another rule that banned guns from parks where children are “likely to be present.”

In October 2009, NRA, and others, filed a complaint in the Superior Court of Washington State against the City of Seattle, asking the court to enjoin and declare invalid the then-recently enacted ban. 

NRA asserted that the city was in violation of Washington's preemption statute, which forbids localities from enacting this type of ban.  Specifically, the preemption statute says the state preempts the field of firearm regulation, and prohibits cities from regulating firearms.  The city tried to ban guns in parks and recreation centers, claiming that the ban wasn’t a “law,” wasn’t a criminal regulation, and that it was acting in its “proprietary capacity” as a property owner.

In October 2008, Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) issued an opinion, which put the city and Mayor Nickels on further notice that Washington cities may not enact local laws prohibiting possession of firearms on city property or in city-owned facilities. 

In February of 2010, the Superior Court of King County struck down the Seattle City Parks and Recreation rule banning firearms from city parks, including possession by Right-to-Carry permit holders.

The city then appealed. 

In this week’s ruling, which affirms the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeals panel wrote:  “We hold that under the plain language of RCW 9.41.290 and RCW 9.41.300, the City’s attempt to regulate the possession of firearms at designated park areas and park facilities open to the public by adopting the Firearms Rule is preempted by state law.” 

The court’s opinion further stated, “The Firearms Rule regulates the possession of firearms at designated city parks and park facilities open to the general public.13 [The case law on which the City relies] does not support the City’s position that RCW 9.41.290 does not apply because it is acting as a property owner and setting conditions on use of its property. Except as authorized by the legislature, RCW 9.41.290 precludes a municipality from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the general public.”

The court’s opinion concluded, “[W]e hold that RCW 9.41.290 preempts the Firearms Rule. Except as expressly authorized by the legislature, municipalities are prohibited from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the public.  Whether to amend RCW 9.41.300 to prohibit possession of firearms at city-owned parks and park facilities frequented by children and youth is a question for the legislature to decide.”

The court’s ruling that the Seattle gun ban is illegal is a great victory for gun owners, the Second Amendment, and NRA.

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