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NRA Sues Seattle Over New Gun Storage Law

The National Rifle Association, Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and two Seattle residents are suing Seattle over the city's new gun-safety law.

By Sarah Wu

The National Rifle Association, Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and two Seattle residents are suing Seattle over the city's new gun-safety law.

Earlier this month, Seattle's City Council passed an ordinance that requires gun owners to lock up their guns. Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the legislation Wednesday, with the law to take effect 180 days later. The legislation came at a time of heightened national concern around gun safety and mass shootings.

Under the legislation, a gun owner could be fined up to $500 if a firearm isn't locked up, up to $1,000 if a minor, "at-risk person" or unauthorized user accesses the weapon and up to $10,000 if someone uses the weapon to hurt someone or commit a crime.

The lawsuit filed Friday in King County Superior Court alleges that the "safe storage" requirement violates Washington state law, which prevents cities from regulating guns.

"Seattle simply can't break the law to adopt an ordinance as a political statement," Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) founder Alan Gottlieb said in a statement.

Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

"If they think we are intimidated, they are mistaken. I will continue to fight for our kids," Durkan said in a tweet.

This isn't the first time Seattle has tried to regulate guns.

In 2010, the city introduced a ban on firearms in Seattle parks. The NRA and SAF sued the city, and the law was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

In August 2017, however, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Seattle's tax on guns. The city's ordinance, passed in 2015, imposed a tax of $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition. The tax raised $93,000 last year.

The new lawsuit was expected by many. The nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety and the law firm Orrick LLP said they would represent Seattle without charge, the same week the city passed the ordinance.

"Frankly, this is no surprise," City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. "The Mayor and Council are trying to prevent children from accessing guns with this Safe Storage legislation. If the NRA and SAF want to be on record fighting responsible gun ownership, that's their choice."

Omar Abdul Alim and Michael Thyng, both Seattle residents, are plaintiffs in the case and cite a fear of home invasions as their motivation to keep their firearms unlocked.

Steven Fogg, an attorney for the plaintiffs, asserts that the ordinance breaks the law by overreaching into state authority on possession of firearms. Fogg said he expects a ruling within three or four months, and that their challenge will be successful.

"The law clearly violates pre-emptions," Fogg said. "The city seems not to learn its lesson."

(c)2018 The Seattle Times

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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