With release of a state Appeals Court ruling this week, gun-rights activists have, as expected, won their legal battle to knock down Seattle's ban on carrying guns in city parks. And as expected they're crowing about it. "We told former Mayor Greg Nickels he was wrong," says Alan Gottlieb, longtime leader of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, "and we have reminded the city under Mayor Mike McGinn that it was wrong, and now the Appeals Court has confirmed our position."
"In sum," writes appeals Judge Ann Schindler, Seattle's ban attempts to pre-empt state law. "Except as expressly authorized by the legislature, municipalities are prohibited from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the public. Whether to amend [state law] to prohibit possession of firearms at city-owned parks and park facilities frequented by children and youth is a question for the legislature to decide."
The ruling upholds a King County Superior Court decision last year by Judge Catherine Shaffer, who felt the ban to carry (openly or concealed) guns in a park was illegal and conflicted with the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Still, there has been confusion over the open carry of guns in parks, leading to an incident at Green Lake in August in which police temporarily confiscated two guns worn by a park stroller.
Gun Week editor Dave Workman thinks the appeals ruling tarnishes the anti-gun reputations of both Nickels and McGinn:
Nickels will now instead be remembered as the stubborn liberal extremist who pushed a ban that he knew was illegal, and has now resulted in a ruling that removed any wiggle room on gun issues for every other municipality in the state. Part of the credit for that, of course, must now be shared by Nickels' successor, Mike McGinn. He had an opportunity to just drop this case and walk away, but McGinn, a transplant from New York, opted for the appeal.
Some of his readers felt the new ruling settles the issue. "There is no mus-understanding our State Preemption," wrote one, "there is no gray area... Let's move on now and talk about these 2 wheeled tax evading machines called bicycles."
But the gun fight isn't over, and McGinn is likely to push ahead for such a ban. As he said last year following Judge Shaffer's decision, "Cities should have the right to restrict guns in playground, pools and community centers where children are present ... It's time for the state Legislature to change that law."
Even Nickels reportedly might help lobby for it in the state legislature starting in January. That's where the fight moves now, as the court says it should. Among others, Washington Ceasefire is campaigning against open-carry of guns statewide. As the gun-control group says of its plans:
Our legislative priority for the 2012 state legislative session is to prohibit the unconcealed, open carrying of loaded weapons. It is legal in this state to carry a loaded weapon in full view without a permit, even in government buildings such as the state Capitol - and into legislative hearing rooms during a public hearing. Open carrying of loaded guns was prohibited in Dodge City during the days of the Wild West and is currently prohibited in such gun-friendly states as Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.
"Like that's going to happen [here] in an election year," sneers Workman. "Lawmakers are not about to appease the far Left mayor of the state's largest political Twilight Zone against the interests of more than 345,000 legally-licensed armed citizen voters who may not need one more excuse to vote Republican in November 2012."