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A case for strengthening Washington State preemption law

As you are probably aware, this year Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that institutes a "tax" on guns and ammunition which goes into effect on January 1st, 2016.

While it is absolutely obvious that this "tax" is just a ham-fisted attempt to run firearms dealers out of town, it is disguised as a "tax" specifically because Washington State has a preemption clause that prohibits firearms regulation by localities such as Seattle.

RCW 9.41.290

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.


This law is a good thing - it protects civil rights of gun owners from arbitrary actions by local politicians in municipalities where a large majority of population is not educated or indifferent to guns. Politicians, such as Seattle City Council, might want to score "progressive" points introducing legislation that could, for example, restrict possession of firearms within their municipality, making an unsuspecting gun owner a felon when they enter its boundaries.

This is not a contrived example - this really was the case before the law went into effect.

The broader reason for preemption laws such as this is protecting civil rights of a minority from a tyranny of the majority. Just like we don't want to allow a city of Alabama to pass legislation restricting civil rights of gay, lesbian or trans-gender people, we don't want the City of Seattle to restrict civil rights of the legal gun owners.

As this case winds through the courts, we have received a news that WAGR - the gun control organization who brought us I-594, and who supported this misguided "tax" - is working with Seattle City Council to build upon their "success" and enact further city-wide restrictions for legal gun ownership, such as a ban on "assault weapons", manufacturing of AR-15 receivers, and more.

Since it appears that Seattle City leaders don't understand the meaning of preemption and are hell-bent on making the lives of Seattle's legal gun owners arbitrarily difficult, the State legislature should reassert its authority over the matter.

Can you take a few minutes and write to your State Representative, urging them to include the language into the definition of RCW 9.41.290 which would specifically bans using taxation and restriction on types of weapons or weapons manufacture as a way to circumvent the state preemption law?

You can find your state legislators here:

Here is a template of the letter you can use.

"Dear Representative or Senator:

In light of the City of Seattle's obvious attempts to use prohibitive taxation to work around RCW 9.41.290, the state preemption law on firearms legislation, I urge you to strengthen the law to explicitly protect the buyers and firearms dealers from this new assault on their civil rights.

Please amend the law by specifically stating that municipalities cannot use taxes or restrictions on firearms manufacturing or specific firearms types to abridge the laws of legal gun owners such as myself in circumvention of the State law.

Thank you,

Your Name

Your legislative district"

Please take this action to protect your civil rights, as well as the rights of your fellow gun owners everywhere in our state.