September 28, 2023
WA Appeals Court Unanimously Upholds Preemption in SAF Lawsuit, iStock-884168778
Washington’s preemption law dates back to 1983. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell would like it to be repealed. iStock-884168778

In the aftermath of a triple murder at a Seattle hookah lounge early Sunday, Democrat Mayor Bruce Harrell was accused of exploiting the crime to push his anti-gun agenda and public reaction has placed the blame on the city’s political leadership and its policies.

Seattle’s problem with crime may be reflective of what is happening in other large cities with liberal municipal governments.

Harrell’s reaction to the slayings was “predictable,” the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said.

In a statement posted on his website, Harrell lamented the “awful epidemic of gun violence” and declared his office is “partnering with legislators at the state level to advance enhanced gun safety legislation and end state preemption over firearms so Seattle can finally set our own laws that keep Seattle neighbors safe.”

Harrell has been a perennial critic of the state’s 40-year-old preemption statute, which has prohibited the increasingly-left city administration from setting its own restrictive gun laws. It was that kind of local control which led the State Legislature in 1983 to adopt the first preemption law, and strengthen it in 1985, the year that the National Rifle Association held its annual convention at the Seattle Center.

But CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb issued a bristling response to Harrell’s statement, insisting the mayor’s proposal will only “impact law-abiding citizens and not prevent a single tragedy.”

“Bruce Harrell was on the city council in 2015 when they hastily adopted the city’s notorious tax on gun and ammunition sales,” Gottlieb recalled in a statement to local media. “In the years since, homicides have more than doubled in Seattle, the gun tax revenue has never come close to the forecast and the mayor and his allies continue blaming guns when they should be blaming the people misusing those guns.”

A check of Seattle Police Department records confirms Gottlieb’s claim. In 2016—the first full year when the gun tax was in effect—Seattle recorded 20 homicides. Last year, the city logged 52 murders, 25 of which involved firearms, according to SPD data. The city has already recorded 47 slayings this year, and may be on track to exceed the record of 69, set in 1994. A Twitter site, Seattle Homicide (not connected with SPD) keeps tabs on the body count.

Seattle’s KOMO News—the local ABC affiliate—is running two online polls, which allow only a single vote per respondent. The results so far are not good for Harrell and his colleagues on the city council.

One poll asks, “Do you believe your elected leaders’ policies have led to an increase in crime? So far, 94 percent say “Yes,” while only 6 percent say “No.”

The second poll is multiple choice: “What do you think is the No. 1 factor in recent mass shootings in Seattle?” A staggering 77 percent say “No fear of consequences” is the most likely factor. Coming in at a distant second, respondents say either a surge in gang activity or low police staffing are equal problems, at 9 percent each. Lax enforcement of gun laws comes in at fourth place, at 6 percent.

Criticism of political policies doesn’t stop at online surveys. Public comments found on the KOMO websites are also telling.

One person criticizing Harrell’s focus on guns noted, “These are stolen firearms used by perps who don’t get prosecuted for home burglaries. Minimum mandatory prison sentences are needed for those convicted of stealing a gun or possessing a stolen one. No plea bargains. Minors included! Most often the charges are down-plead, and the perps continue on their merry way with murder and mayhem.  That’s the Elephant in the Room that is being ignored.” Other respondents agreed.

Another noted, “There is no ‘gun violence.’ There is violence by repeat criminals who should not have been released to commit further crimes.”

In his criticism of Harrell, CCRKBA’s Gottlieb stated, “Instead of talking about getting guns off the street, how about focusing on getting criminals off the street?”
Harrell explained in his online statement, “We will continue to take a holistic approach to this ongoing challenge – partnering with community-based organizations to prevent gun crimes before they happen and support upstream proactive efforts…”

“The mayor and city council can take any approach they desire,” Gottlieb said, “but when they promote and adopt social policies which the public, especially the criminal element, see as soft on crime, at the end of the day all they are doing is pontificating. Preemption has provided uniformity in state gun laws for nearly 40 years, and what seems to escape Mayor Harrell and other gun control advocates is that you cannot prevent violent crime by penalizing people who don’t commit crime, or by repealing a law which protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners from one state border to the other.”

Washington’s preemption law has been used by other states as a model for their own similar statutes. Anti-gunners would be delighted to repeal the Evergreen State law—there was an effort earlier this year but it never gained traction—because the process might provide strategic information about how to attack the other preemption laws. Currently, about 42 states have such laws.

Shortly after taking office, Harrell held a press conference at which he claimed Washington was only one of a few states with such laws, and Gottlieb quickly took him to task for the canard.

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.Dave Workman

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