Make no mistake, the elimination of State preemption of gun laws would be an absolute nightmare. For citizens, law enforcement, courts, everyone. Sadly this isn’t the first time this subject has come up in the legislature, and it likely won’t be the last.
Right now, Washingtonians only have to worry about Federal and State law when it comes to firearms. While still a lot for responsible gun owners to be aware of, keeping track of the law is at least manageable. In a world without preemption, as proposed in HB 1178, the count of firearms laws would snowball out of control. Knowing what laws apply to you in any given location would be impossible to keep track of for all practical matters.
For reference, Washington State has 39 counties and 281 municipalities. Each county and municipality (city/town) would be able to create their own subset of firearms laws if this legislation were to move forward and pass. Traveling from one area of the state to another, running errands on the weekend, traveling to and from work, or even hopping across town could see you subject to hundreds or even thousands of different laws.
One example of this would be if you lived in the North end of King County. If you lived in Shoreline and needed to run errands on the weekend, say a trip to the hardware store, grocery store, big box stores, etc. You would potentially run into trouble if you were to be carrying your firearm with you.
This route along highway 99 from 135th in Seattle to 196th is only 7 miles long. It takes you through 5 cities and 2 counties which would potentially subject you to not only the Federal and State laws, but whatever laws King or Snohomish county implemented as well as the laws implemented by each city while you are in them.
Further issues arise if you live in any of these locations. You don’t even need to leave town to potentially be violating a county’s law. These municipalities span multiple counties!
I can’t even begin to understand how enforcement would even be handled. Where does jurisdiction begin and end? If you’re stopped by State Patrol on the highway, will they be tasked to enforce county or municipal law? Same goes for County sheriff’s departments. In the case of Bothell, would they enforce King or Snohomish county laws depending on which side of the sidewalk you’re standing on? It doesn’t make sense.
Additionally, with continued defunding of police departments, would there even be manpower to enforce the laws?
Legal and Financial Issues
Aside from the potential legal issues for gun owning Washingtonians, what burden would this place on the State’s legal system? Every law or ordinance being implemented would land in court challenging Constitutionality. This would most certainly clog up the system, what would be the financial burden on the State, Counties, and municipalities to defend these laws? What would be the financial burden on taxpayers? Both for funding the State/County/Municipality to defend the laws and for funding the legal challenge itself?
This doesn’t make sense. Especially now in the light of the Supreme Court decision in Bruen. Our legislature, governor and attorney general can’t even seem to wrap their heads around that one, why would we think that lower levels of government would be able to either?
Why would this legislation even be proposed? One might think that if this was the first year it was proposed that perhaps the legislation hadn’t been fully thought through. That would at least be understandable. However that’s not the case. This legislation has been brought forward at least 6 times previously from 2018-2022.
This legislation has been discussed plenty, the legislators all know how impractical this is. These same legislators have sought to de-fund law enforcement, decriminalize or lessen punishment for any variety of violent crimes. The only conclusion one can draw is that they want to be able to manufacture criminals out of ordinary people. Quite frankly I’m tired of hearing them try to pitch it as anything else.
Be sure to contact to your representatives to express your views on this bill.
You can use this reference table to get a better idea of the potential number of laws/ordinances that could be generated if this bill were to be passed.