Opinion

Is Federal Way violating gun laws?

Aaron Walls, deputy city attorney for Federal Way, recently provided a written legal opinion. He asserts that Washington state’s law that controls all local firearms restrictions no longer applies in Federal Way parks and other city property.

The city’s legal position, as enunciated in Mr. Walls’ legal opinion, is that RCW 9.41.290 “only applies to the regulation of firearms themselves” and “excludes regulations that only secondarily affect firearms… that do not embody a punitive regulation.”

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion this fall that thoroughly rebuts Mr. Walls’ opinion.

We had already pointed out to Mr. Walls, in a letter dated May 22, 2008, that the legal authority on which the city is relying is contrary to any reasonable analysis of the law.

In plain English, the Legislature has put cities and counties in Washington on notice that local governments’ hands are tied when it comes to restricting our gun rights — even inside the building where the jails and police stations are located.

If the city can’t disarm you inside City Hall, how can it force you to be defenseless in the city’s parks? Keep in mind: Cities can only enact those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law.

There was recently a mass shooting in another state where the attacker shot and killed a uniformed police officer as a prelude to killing several other people during a City Hall meeting.

Our state’s Legislature has decided that the solution to such scenarios is not to disarm the people, but to make sure that many honest people will be armed when violence occurs.

The key case is Cherry v. Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, a case in which a Metro employee was fired for bringing a gun to work. The anti-gun folks assert that Cherry is legal authority for disarming you when you cross onto city property. Despite such assertions, the Cherry case just stands for the premise that if you work as a municipal employee, you may be prohibited from carrying a weapon while on the job.

There are presently cities all over Washington state receiving the same advice as Federal Way. Many politicians in Washington, like Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, don’t like the state pre-emption law and have announced publicly that they want it repealed. Lawyers often provide advice that will provide justification for the client’s agenda (e.g., to restrict your gun rights).

Prior to the attorney general issuing the opinion putting anti-gun politicians in their place, cities were being advised by counsel to rely on the case of Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association v. City of Sequim in order to wage their quiet jihad on your ability to protect your family and loved ones.

In Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association v. City of Sequim (2006), the court held that the City of Sequim was acting in a private capacity when leasing out a city convention center to an association conducting a gun show within the premises belonging to Sequim.

Basically the court decided that the laws that apply to public parks, public meetings and other municipally-owned premises and property are not the same as restrictions imposed on private parties per a city’s contractual relations with private parties.

AGO Opinion 2008-8 essentially states that the City of Federal Way’s conclusion that the city has the right “to decide as an owner how its property is used” would render the pre-emption statute meaningless. In the event civil litigation becomes necessary, Federal Way’s attorney fees could be very high, especially in the face of the unequivocal legal authority outlined herein.

As stated already, there are several jurisdictions within the State of Washington that are not complying with the pre-emption law — and firearms owners are becoming very concerned that such callous indifference to state law may endanger the lives of Washington citizens in direct contravention of legislative intent.

Federal Way should amend the relevant statutes and change the signage in the city to indicate that weapons are prohibited where not otherwise lawful.

The best defense for the citizens of Federal Way, all of whom are vulnerable to random shootings and street violence, is to limit the number of “gun free” zones that are available as kill zones to criminals, terrorists or other deranged individuals seeking publicity by mass shootings. Almost all such shootings have occurred in areas where honest citizens have been rendered defenseless by laws or policies.

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