Friday, February 12, 2010

Seattle Parks Ban Goes Poof!

And who's a sad panda?

On May 4th of 2006, then Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels wrote Washington House Majority Leader Rep. Frank Chopp in which he stated "Our hands are tied at the local level and we are unable to adopt any local laws to protect our residents from gun crime".

On October 13th of 2008, at the request of State Sen. Bob Morton, the Attorney General of the State of Washington issued a formal opinion, the summary of which reads: "The answer to your question is no. RCW 9.41.290 “fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation” and preempts a city’s authority to adopt firearms laws or regulations of application to the general public, unless specifically authorized by state law. Accordingly, RCW 9.41.290 preempts a city’s authority to enact local laws that prohibit possession of firearms on city property or in city-owned facilities."

On December 15th, 2008 a public hearing was held regarding the proposed gun ban, and opposition was overwhelming.

On June 9th of 2009, then Mayor Greg Nickels issued an executive order prohibiting the posession of guns by any person not a law enforcement officer at city parks, community centers, buildings, and the Seattle Center.

On October 28th of 2009, the Second Amendment Foundation, the National Rifle Association,Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Washington Arms Collectors and five individual plaintiff's filed suit (after numerous warnings) against the City of Seattle alleging that the ban violated state Pre-emption as described under titles 9.41.290 and 9.41.300 of the Revised Code of Washington.

On February 12th of 2010, King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled that "Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation's Rule/Policy Number P 060-8.14 ("Firearms Rule") violates Washington law and on that basis, is null and void." Written ruling here, oral ruling to follow.

That, however, is only the bones of the ruling. I was there, sitting in the courtroom, as Judge Shaffer issued her ruling from the bench with eloquence, logic, and a fine analysis of the case law before her before offering her well-reasoned conclusion - a conclusion much more far reaching than the media depicts. I look forward to posting it in it's entirety as soon as the court reporters transcript becomes available. It is a beautiful logical construct and a testament to a fine legal mind operating in top form. Today, however, lacking a recording device, I can only report my best recollection.

Judge Shaffer began with an analysis of constitutional issues - matters brought by neither plaintiff or defendant, but of which she took judicial notice as background information. Article I, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution reads "RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men." And, of course, the Judge noted the Second Amendment - about the time she brought up Heller and the potential 14th Amendment (Section 1) implications, audible gasps of horror began to erupt in the back benches of the courtroom.

The sad panda's of CeaseFire and their allies appeared to be realizing they were about to have a very bad day. They were not mistaken.

Judge Shaffer proceeded to the three cases brought by the City's pro bono attorneys as precedent. The first, decided in 1958, regarded an E. WA city and whether it had the authority to decide who it would rent a community stadium to - the Judge found the case inapplicable as the parks were open to the public, not rented to specific individuals. The second case, Pacific Northwest Shooting Park, et Al, Appellants v. City of Sequim, Police Chief, Respondent, was dismissed similarly irrelevant as not applying to a rule to be followed by the general public. The third case, Cherry v. Mun. of Metro. Seattle, 116 Wn.2d 794, 802, in which the WA Supreme Court stated that muni/county/etc employers could bar employee's w/ concealed pistol licenses from otherwise legal on-the-job carry was also irrelevant.

Shaffer went on to note that if the rule in question were allowed to stand, the City could just as easily bar gun-owners from streets, sidewalks, the waterfront, and any other area under City control.

However, the fun had yet to truly begin. Shaffer ruled that Article 1, Section 24 of the State Constitution and the Second Amendment were *individual* rights and thus barred such a rule, and further, that the rule since it affected the general public and imposed a criminal penalty (i.e., "we're not regulating gun possession. We're just withdrawing permission to remain on premises, and summoning SPD to criminally trespass those that don't immediately obey" isn't going to fly in the courts) was in violation of the pre-emption statutes, RCW 9.41.290 and 9.41.300.

I was amazed I didn't hear the whipcrack reports of multiple spontaneous implosions as this came down, given the presence of CeaseFire members.

This ruling, if sustained on appeal (and I half expect the City to push it all the way to the WA Supreme Ct, at which point a ruling against the City would create binding precedent across the state), effectively emasculates attempts by gun-banners and hoplophobes to implement a nightmarish patchwork of confusing jurisdiction to jurisdiction rule changes and eccentricities. It means that any gun law changes (or "rules" - regulation/law in heavy drag) will need to originate in the WA State Legislature. It further sets at least advisory precedent for other courts regarding the Second as an individual right.

In my considered opinion, it means that for the forseeable future, CeaseFire might as well fold up shop or take up knitting tea cozies.

It's a GOOD day. More to come later.


On a Wing and a Whim said...

I love that judge's sharp legal mind - wish the news reports had taken the time to follow that logic chain! Thank you for laying it out!

Drang said...

So... King County is for incorporation?

WV: scout. rilly.

Gay_Cynic said...

Yes, as of now, it is. We should hold some appropriate celebration.