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Supreme Court upholds Sequim city gun show rule


Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA -- The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the city of Sequim'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 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 of Sequim, 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 former 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.

Sequim Mayor Walt Schubert said he was pleased the case was over.

``Hopefully we can make peace with the gun people and have a better understanding so in the future it doesn't happen again,'' he said.

Nelson, who retired from the chief position in 2002 after six years leading the department, defended the rules, saying they had been vetted by the city's attorney.

He also said it was an emotional issue

``There was a lot of name calling, people appearing in front of the City Council wanting my head on a platter,'' he said Thursday.

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.''



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