September 2011 Bar Bulletin
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September 2011 Bar Bulletin

Local Gun Laws Are Not the Answer

By Mark S. Knapp

 

I read KCBA President Joe Bringman's message in the Bar Bulletin (July President's Page).1 Many lawyers have the impression that the KCBA is taking political positions that conflict with the conservative principles which animate more than a few lawyers. The President's comments, related to state preemption of local gun control efforts, might be commendable as an opinion piece or an expression of his personal opinion. Nevertheless, the fact that he was writing as president to KCBA members raises the issue of whether the President's Page is an appropriate venue from which to advocate taking a questionable position regarding RCW 9.41.290.

Consider how many lawyers and even judges have concealed pistol licenses (CPLs) and ask how those of us that "bear arms" as a normal part of our daily routine would be able to navigate our way down the freeway if we have to research the laws of every municipality into which we enter. If it is a challenge for lawyers that are experts when it comes to legal research, then what about the non-lawyer that chooses to carry? If judges and lawyers adopt the approach that each man or woman that bears arms also bears the risks of running afoul of a patchwork of confusing laws, the chilling effect will hobble any meaningful exercise of our rights under the U.S. Constitution and Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution:

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.

If I go to a park in Seattle using public transportation, would I check my gun in with the driver before I get on the bus? If I am walking around Seattle, will the City provide a lock box outside each entrance to a city park the way the courts are required to do by statute? And what about when I park in a municipally owned parking lot while stopping in a city that has decided to enact legislation prohibiting firearms in vehicles parked in municipal parking lots? The unpredictability and chaos will lead to utter disrespect for the law.

The impact of any potential modification concerning RCW 9.41.290 collides with common sense. Local governments are not best situated to determine how to ensure the safety of their citizens. Local lawmakers react to local political pressures often without considering ramifications that involve travelers, visitors and business people that may be carrying large amounts of money with no place to safely store a weapon when they enter an area that restricts firearms.

Many states have similar preemption laws and are safer than cities like Chicago where most residents have been prohibited from keeping guns — even in their homes — and the murder rate is out of control. Enacting the President's proposals for Washington would create legal chaos and make us less safe.

RCW 9.41.290 states:


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