State’s gun laws face new challenge after court ruling

The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment served as a moral victory for advocates of gun rights.

The court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, determined that a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional. The court also nixed the law that required all firearms in D.C. to be stored unloaded and unassembled or bound with a trigger lock.

What will the court’s ruling change in Washington state? Not much, as the state’s constitution already enforces an individual’s right to bear arms.

In the “Wild West,” gun laws take on a more libertarian approach. According to Washington state’s pre-emption law (RCW 9.41.290): “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with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”

In other words, the state sets the standard for individual gun rights.

Federal Way resident Mark Knapp, a lawyer and expert on firearms law (visit his Web site at http://firearmslawyer.net), said Washington state is among the more gun-friendly states, joining a list that includes Arizona and Utah. About 235,000 Washington state residents have a concealed weapons permit.

Knapp carries a pistol at all times — “even when I’m watching TV,” he said.

Knapp embodies the traits of a responsible gun owner. He took the necessary courses to receive his pistol license and concealed weapons permit.

Knapp handles his weapons with utmost regard for safety, and he does so out of habit. He usually carries either a .38-caliber airweight Smith and Wesson revolver or a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol.

Likewise, Knapp said he has never used his guns outside of a shooting range.

Gun laws are not crafted with responsible owners like Knapp in mind. The government faces an eternal dilemma regarding gun control and the Second Amendment. A function of government is to protect its people. Even proponents of limited government recognize that necessity to maintaining order in society.

On that note, the Supreme Court’s ruling likely means more legal battles over gun control in an effort to keep guns away from individuals who shouldn’t have them. For example, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, through executive order, is pushing for a handgun ban on city property after two people were shot at a festival last May. The shooter in that incident had a valid concealed weapon permit as well as mental health problems.

The executive order clashes with the state’s pre-emption law, but Nickels cites a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling in which the city of Sequim regulated a private gun show held on public property.

The Sequim case related to a permit for private use of public property, and did not apply to restrictions for the general public.

But if Nickels thinks a sweeping gun prohibition will solve any problems, he should consider the source of last month’s Supreme Court ruling: Washington, D.C. Despite a citywide handgun ban, D.C. has ranked among the most crime-ridden cities in the nation.

Arguments linger on both sides of the fence as to whether stricter gun laws lead to lower crime rates. Washington state’s gun laws are sufficient, but the laws can only go so far in protecting the public.

The rest is up to law enforcement’s duty to respond appropriately — and an individual gun owner’s duty to behave responsibly.

Mirror editor Andy Hobbs: editor@fedwaymirror.com

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