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SAF’s preemption project making progress in Utah

Alan Gottlieb's SAF is reportedly getting good cooperation from Utah cities in its Preemption Program effort.
Dave Workman

Several Utah municipalities are reportedly cooperating with the Second Amendment Foundation’s highly successful “Legal Preemption Project” under which the gun rights organization has been challenging communities in six other states, including Washington, to get gun control ordinances off their books that conflict with state preemption statutes, the Salt Lake Tribune reported today.

The Beehive State is seventh in line for SAF preemption attention. Letters were mailed out earlier in the summer to 49 municipalities, the newspaper reported. At least eight of those communities are already looking at their laws.

SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb launched the project more than three years ago. His intent has been to research local community ordinances in target states to see whether they comply with preemption laws, many of which have been passed over the last two decades while the local regulations frequently are much older. The SAF project is aimed at accomplishing its mission without having to resort to legal action.

“We have been very successful with this effort,” he told Examiner, “and it’s a way to erase these laws without a great deal of expense.

“It’s really great that people can see we’re advancing the ball down the field,” he added. “If you’re not proactive, you don’t win.”

The first two states targeted by the SAF effort were Virginia and Washington. The project in Maryland generated lots of publicity, and the City of Oak Harbor in Washington made national headlines two years ago when members of its city council initially balked, but then complied when threatened with a lawsuit they could not win.

That came after SAF had successfully sued the City of Seattle over its attempt to erode the state preemption statute with a regulatory ban on guns in city park facilities. That lawsuit was joined by the National Rifle Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and five individual plaintiffs.

Over the past couple of years, SAF has adopted the slogan, “Winning Firearms Freedom, One Lawsuit at a Time.” Under the Preemption Project, legal actions ideally would not be necessary because SAF advises municipalities by letter that their regulation is in conflict with the law, and each community has an opportunity to take appropriate action and change their laws.

SAF’s project has firmed up its reputation for taking legal actions against different local and state gun laws. Its Supreme Court victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago raised the organization’s image considerably. Since then, SAF has championed legal actions that forced Illinois lawmakers to adopt a concealed carry law – the NRA had a separate and similar lawsuit – and forced changes in laws that have discriminated against legal resident aliens in several states who wanted carry permits but were refused because they are not citizens.

SAF's recent victory in the Palmer case is aimed at erasing the District of Columbia's ban on carry outside the home for personal protection. That was not part of the preemption project.

Gottlieb has so far been pleased with the cooperation he’s seen in Utah. It is not clear where SAF will take the project next, but in Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, several communities have “agreed to review their ordinances and some confirmed that they would remove the targeted provisions.”

SAF General Counsel Miko Tempski told the newspaper that he is hopeful Utah communities can “clean up” their problem regulations “and nobody has to spend a whole bunch of money or time dealing with it.” These are not the kinds of situations that should produce lawsuits, he indicated.

After all, municipal governments should obey the law the same as they expect their citizens to do.

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