Fear & Loading: Washington Officials Standing their Ground

posted on February 19, 2019

More than a dozen Washington state law enforcement officials have stated their respective departments and personnel will not enforce the changes in firearm law mandated by I-1639—citing concerns the 30-page measure violates rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution—until it survives a court challenge filed by NRA-ILA and the Second Amendment Foundation. The ballot initiative was approved Nov. 6 and, pending judicial review, could go into effect July 1.

Among the many changes I-1639 brings is language increasing the minimum age required to purchase or possess any semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. That includes .22 rimfires considered ideal for young enthusiasts. Owners who came into possession of a semi-auto rifle and have yet to reach 21 years of age by July 1 will be in violation of the law.

Training must be completed within five years of a semi-automatic rifle purchase, regardless of the new owner’s age, and a certificate proving successful completion must be presented to the dealer during the transaction. An additional $25 fee will be levied on the purchase, a 10-day waiting period will be mandatory and, as Initiative1639.org explains, “The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) and law enforcement agencies are directed to collect and store information on purchases and transfers of guns under this Initiative, without limits on how this information may be used.”

“I swore an oath to defend our citizens and their constitutionally protected rights,” Grant County (WA) Sheriff Tom Jones explained to the Washington Post. “I do not believe the popular vote overrules that.”

The law also requires safe/locked storage in the home, slowing an innocent citizen’s response to potentially deadly home invasions—even if no young or unauthorized people have lawful access to the residence. Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer told the Daily Herald, “Again, it’s government intruding into your private home.”

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the number of chief law enforcement officers in opposition to the measure is up to 16, among them Stevens County (WA) Sheriff Brad Menke. “I’m morally opposed to any law that’s really against our Second Amendment rights,” he told the paper. “It’s difficult to have laws forced upon you.”

“This law will do nothing to stop crime or do anything to make our communities safer,” Sheriff Songer told the Daily Herald. “But what it will do is make criminals out of our honest citizens.”

Debate over the contentious initiative began long before voters reached the polls. NRA-ILA initially won a courtroom victory that determined organizers of the measure failed to use proper font size—30 pages of proposal were miniaturized onto a single page. Strike-throughs to emphasize precise changes in the law were also missing. The judge ruled it did not meet the law’s “readable, full, true, and correct copy” requirements and explained to the defendants during the hearing, “I have 20-20 vision … I simply cannot read it.”

Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA, said at the time, “The National Rifle Association is glad to see the court today recognized how negligent, if not worse, gun control advocates were in their signature-gathering for this ill-advised ballot initiative.” The Secretary of State press release in July even reflected a concern over the petition’s formatting,. but explained the office doesn’t have the authority to reject petitions due to unreadable text or lack of strike-throughs.

In August the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the grounds that the lower court didn’t have authority in the matter, according to the Seattle Times. The decision put I-1639 back on the ballot, where it was approved on Nov. 5.

“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” Cox said about NRA-ILAs pending legal challenge. “I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense.”


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