city closes loophole?
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Thursday, October 12, 2006 - Page updated at 11:47 AM
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State Supreme Court upholds city's gun-show restrictions
By David Ammons
AP Political Writer
OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court today upheld a city's restrictions on a gun show, but dissenters said the majority's "Humpty-Dumptyism" manages to circumvent state law that forbids cities from regulating gun shows on city property.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court rejected complaints that the city of Sequim ruined a gun show when the police chief imposed a number of restrictions.
The sponsors, the Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association, and a firearms collector, Lawrence Witt, said the city had illegally interfered with its contract rights for the 2002 show at the town convention center. The last-minute restrictions caused some vendors to pull out and the event was a failure, the organizers said.
The court, in a majority opinion by Justice Mary Fairhurst, said when the permit for the gun show was being considered, the city circulated it to the police and fire departments, city manager and the public works department, some of whom imposed conditions on the show.
The organizers appealed the requirements of Police Chief Byron Nelson that unlicensed dealers couldn't sell guns, that only dealers could buy from unlicensed individuals and that only dealers could "dispose of" handguns — and then only to state residents.
The chief came to the convention hall the day before the gun show was to begin and announced the restrictions to the vendors. Many vendors packed up and left and attendance was far below expectations. Organizers sued, but the trial court and appeals court sided with the city.
The high court said Sequim's actions didn't violate the state law dealing with gun shows and that the organizers didn't properly advance their argument that the city damaged their contract rights and cost them business.
Dissenters were upset.
"The majority is wrong," turning upside down the state law that prohibits cities from regulating gun shows, wrote Justice Richard Sanders.
"I am nonplussed," he wrote. "The statute means what it says. City of Sequim lacked authority to regulate PSNPA's gun show. Only the majority's linguistic somersaults make it mean the opposite of what it says."
He called it "Humpty-Dumptyism" and said the court has no right to "substitute its preferences for those of the Legislature."
Justices James Johnson and Tom Chambers, in another dissent, agreed with Sanders and said the police chief was wrong to impose restrictions more stringent than state law. Washington law, for instance, does not restrict the sale or purchase of guns to licensed dealers, they wrote.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
What happens now?
Most likely, unless the U. S. Supreme Court grants certiorari, the ruling will stand until overturned (if ever) by a later ruling of the Washington Supreme Court.
Gun show promoters will just have to get their ducks in a row early on or go elsewhere.
Originally Posted by AirForceShooter