Dear Ms. MacNab:
It has come to my attention that the Port of Seattle is illegally prohibiting firearm possession in the non-sterile public areas of SeaTac Airport through SeaTac Airport Rules and Regulations Section 3, #16(a). This rule is a state firearms law preemption violation, and cannot be enforced. RCW 9.41.290 reads:
"The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality."
The Port of Seattle is a Municipality, according to RCW 53.04.060, ". . . and the port district shall then be and become a municipal corporation of the state of Washington . . .". State preemption applies to all municipalities.
The Ports Rules and Regulations are actually laws, because violations of them are a misdemeanor, according to RCW 53.08.220, "(2)(a) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, any violation of the regulations described in subsection (1) of this section is a misdemeanor which shall be redressed in the same manner as other police regulations of the city, town, or county, and it shall be the duty of all law enforcement officers to enforce such regulations accordingly." RCW 53.08.220 exclusively grants authority to the Port Commission to make rules and regulations for the Port's property. The above quoted section codifies those Rules and Regulations as law, because it adds a criminal penalty (misdemeanor) to violations of them. State preemption applies to all laws passed by a municipality.
RCW 53.08.220 also requires that Rules and Regulations passed by resolution ". . . must conform to and be consistent with federal and state law." RCW 9.41.300 prohibits firearms in "The restricted access areas of a commercial service airport designated in the airport security plan approved by the federal transportation security administration, including passenger screening checkpoints at or beyond the point at which a passenger initiates the screening process. These areas do not include airport drives, general parking areas and walkways, and shops and areas of the terminal that are outside the screening checkpoints and that are normally open to unscreened passengers or visitors to the airport . . ." The Port's firearms prohibition clearly violates the RCW 53.08.220 proviso that rules and regulations conform to state law because it prohibits firearms where state law does not.
In summary, the Port's firearm prohibition in non-sterile areas is illegal and cannot and must not be enforced because, (a) the Port of Seattle is a municipality, thus preemption applies, (b) the Port's Rules and Regulations are actually laws, thus preemption applies, and (c) the Port's Rules and Regulations must be consistent with state law. They are not because state law allows firearm possession in the non-sterile areas of the airport.
Numerous state agencies have, in the past several years, changed their rules or regulations to allow the lawful possession of firearms on their properties. They have done this to be in compliance with state preemption. These agencies include Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (concealed and open carry not prohibited in state parks), Metro transit and numerous other transit agencies, and numerous publicly owned and operated fairgrounds, parks, and other recreation facilities. These agencies all receive their operating authority from the State (just like the Port) and they have all agreed that their rules and regulations are controlled by state preemption.
Ms. MacNab, I realize that you do not have the authority to change any of this, but you were given as the contact person for this issue. It is my hope that the Port's Rules and Regulations can be changed to conform to state law from the inside. Meaning: Port staff (you, the Police Chief, the Port CEO and the Port's legal counsel) will research this issue, realize the error, and recommend a change in the Rules and Regulations to the Port Commission. Of course the other route to change is letters to the Port Commissioners, attending commission meetings and giving public comment, contacting the State Attorney General, etc.
As a constituent of the Port Commissioners, I am very concerned that failure to address this issue will expose the Port (and its employees individually, with no qualified immunity, see 42 USC 1983) to expensive false arrest lawsuits. Such a situation would be a failure of the commissioner's fiduciary responsibility to protect public assets from loss.
Would you please write back to me and let me know how this issue will be resolved? Thank you.