Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seattle tries to subvert preemption law

From the Evergreen State:
In the wake of last year's shootings at Seattle's Folklife Festival, Mayor Greg Nickels pledged to ban guns on city property. But except for one public hearing, there's been little sign of activity. Now as the festival kicks off this weekend at Seattle Center, city officials say the new policy is in effect.

When folk music fans arrive at Seattle Center for the festival, they'll see signs posted saying no guns allowed. And that applies even to concealed weapons with legal permits.

Bob Scales is Seattle's senior policy analyst on this issue. He says gun owners will have a few options.

Scales: "They can either take their gun and either take it home or store it legally in their car. Or if they want to store it at Seattle Center they're making safe storage devices available."

There are lock boxes in Key Arena, where gun owners can leave their guns until they're ready to go home.

The city included new language in its leases with the Folklife Festival and other renters this year. These groups are now required to take steps to keep guns off city property. Right now, the policy only applies to locations covered by those leases. Later this year, the city will implement the gun ban in all city parks and buildings. But they aren't calling it a ban. That's because state law preempts tighter gun laws by cities.

Scales says it's a "rule."

Scales: "The state preemption clearly prohibits the city from passing a law. A rule is not a law. What a rule is, is essentially a formalized policy."
[emphasis added]

And if someone breaks that rule by bringing a gun to Seattle Center or City Hall, there won't be any penalty. The penalty will be a citation for criminal trespass, if the person is asked to leave and refuses.

Alan Gottlieb heads the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue. He's been a vocal critic of the Seattle gun rule. He says it violates state law and he'll be in court as soon as the city implements it. ...

Article here. Imagine if the city tried to subvert anti-discrimination laws by passing a "rule" that no blacks, or hispanics, or asians, could enter the festival. Think they'd get very far? Or a "rule" that tried to muzzle free speech in all city parks?

In general, a municipality's administrative rules cannot override state law, absent some explicit authorization by the state legislature or state Constitution. Municipalities are political subdivisions of the state, and hence subject to its power.

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