Second Amendment advocates from one coast to the other should be paying close attention to what is happening in Washington state, which has become a test tube for anti-gunners now laying the framework to dismantle state preemption statutes and ban semiautomatic firearms, and it can be traced to King County, where the Board of Health recently adopted a regulation in clear defiance of the state’s 35-year-old preemption law.
The Board unanimously adopted the west coast’s first requirement that gun shops and sporting goods stores where firearms are sold must post “warning signs” at all entrances and cash registers that guns are harmful.
Yet, there has not been a peep from anti-gun State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose job it is to defend and enforce state laws, including the preemption statute dating back to 1983 that has served as a model for similar laws in other states.
Spearheading this effort is ardent anti-gun King County Councilman Joe McDermott, who has also been leading an effort called the King County Gun Safety Action Plan. This scheme openly explains to readers that, “If the state preemption law is repealed, the King County Gun Safety Action Plan will immediately” take certain steps that, say critics, will further trample on the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 24 of the state constitution. Those steps:
- Ban semi-automatic, high velocity weapons: Ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic, high velocity weapons
- Ban high-capacity ammunition magazines: Ban the sale and possession of high capacity ammunition magazines
- Raise the minimum age to 21: For all firearm purchases and possession laws
- Impose a waiting period: Establish a waiting period before taking possession of a firearm after purchase
- Require safety training: Require firearm safety training before taking possession of a firearm after purchase
This reads like a gun control wish list, and when one looks at that first proposal, it can be tied directly to the all-encompassing definition of a so-called “semiautomatic assault rifle” that is part of the recently-passed Initiative 1639, which is now being challenged in federal court. Here’s how the initiative defines an “assault rifle” which could be the target of a complete ban at some future date, as anti-gunners attempted earlier this year in neighboring Oregon:
“Semiautomatic assault rifle” means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
That language can apply to every self-loading rifle ever manufactured, whether used for hunting big or small game, competition, or recreational shooting. And a ban would snare all of them.
The Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association are suing on specific tenets of the initiative, and SAF founder Alan Gottlieb intimated in a statement last week that there may be other legal actions on the horizon.
If the county is allowed to get away with this signing requirement, it is an erosion of the preemption law that places sole authority for gun regulation with the state legislature. Here’s what that law says:
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.
Gun owners and rights activists in other states should take as a lesson what is happening in the Evergreen State. Most states have preemption laws, and they all have gun control proponents looking for ways to further erode constitutionally-protected fundament rights to keep and bear arms.
Trying to remind the establishment media that rights are at stake so far doesn’t seem to register in the gun control debate, creating the impression that the press doesn’t care. What does register, with gun owners, is that the gun prohibition lobby appears determined to erase the Second Amendment and all state constitutional right-to-bear-arms provisions, by incremental steps that might include citizen initiatives and local governments adopting regulations in defiance of the state statutes, confident that the state attorney general won’t lift a finger to stop them.
Will preemption stand in Washington? How can your state defend against an attack such as Initiative 1639? Share your answers in the comment section.
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