Washington state is just one of the test beds for new laws that seek to redefine the Second Amendment and strip of us of common firearms in everyday use. Washington state’s new laws have went so far as to broadly define most any semi-automatic rifle as a so-called “assault weapon.” This would include rifles such as the Ruger 10/22.
It’s not just the broad nature of I-1639 that is offensive. Had the law been narrowly written, such as the ban on bump stocks, it would have been just as offensive and the same threat to our future constitutional rights. It does not matter whether you are for or against bump stocks. Bump stocks are not the issue. The issue is the lawmakers who think it is okay to pick and choose by declaring this gun, that accessory, or a combination of certain accessories suddenly makes it the firearm an “assault weapon” or in some other way illegal or worthy of regulation.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The problem comes first when these onerous laws are passed. Then, when common citizens become subjected to the oppression. Even when it comes to something as simple as bump stocks or “standard capacity” magazines, I have heard the threats of honest, law-abiding citizens pledging to defy new laws by hiding their magazines, firearms, or bump stocks.
What are lawmakers hoping to accomplish by turning the honest citizens into criminals? Did they forget our Founding Fathers were accused of being smugglers, tax evaders, and traitors for events we now celebrate with national holidays? Now, before this gets too far in the direction that someone would accuse me of inciting or recommending individuals defy the law… Actually, I do not have to recommend that, because it is happening organically.
No, the citizens have not started to rise up in defiance—perhaps not on a large scale anyway—but some prominent members of law enforcement have. We have all heard the media screams when a President of the United States (past or present) has ordered Federal law enforcement to not enforce a particular law for one reason or another. Several laws offer law enforcement to use its own discretion, and that is exactly what they are doing.
Cities and counties are declaring their boundaries as gun sanctuaries; places where the whims and bias of politicians with an anti-gun agenda will have no sway. And then there is law enforcement. In the case of I-1639 in Washington state, 12 Sheriffs have declared that they will not enforce the state’s sweeping new restrictions on semi-automatic rifles. At least not until the courts decided whether the new law is constitutional. Other troubling regulations in I-1639 include raising the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, requiring buyers to pass a firearms safety course, expanding background checks and gun storage requirements—just to name a few. The ideas may be noble, but the execution is a problem—firearms safety education does not equal justification for depriving citizens of their rights, or the tools necessary for self-defense.
There are so many things to discuss that it is hard to determine where to start. How can we send our young men and women in the military to fight overseas, when they cannot own a firearm at home? The military has plenty of empirical evidence that individuals under the age of 21 can effectively and safely handle firearms. Should that same young service member, or civilian equivalent, be denied their right to self-defense? I enlisted at the age of 17. Less than a year later, the government had no issue handing me a gun to stand watch, as a member of the security force, or to guard nuclear weapons—all of which I was authorized to use deadly force. That does not mean being armed and under 21 is reckless or dangerous. But I digress to my soap box…
The National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Initiative 1639 is unconstitutional. They say the purchasing requirements violate the right to bear arms and stray into the regulation of interstate commerce, which is the province of the federal government. Another issue comes from the fact that Washington state has a preemption law on the books.
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 12 Sheriffs (so far) are in mostly rural, conservative counties— Benton, Cowlitz, Douglas, Grant, Lincoln, Klickitat, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Yakima. The sheriffs are not alone; there is at least one police chief (that I have heard of) refusing to enforce the new infringements to the Second Amendment.
“I swore an oath to defend our citizens and their constitutionally protected rights,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said. “I do not believe the popular vote overrules that.”
The Founding Fathers feared a tyranny of the majority. Fortunately, we still have a few patriotic law enforcement officers with common sense and the bravado to do the right thing for the people.
Renee Hopkins, chief executive of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility that pushed the initiative, responded to the Sheriffs by saying, “The political grandstanding is disheartening. If they do not run the background checks, we will have a huge problem.”
Some of us are still scratching our heads as to how I-1639 ever passed in a state such as Washington in the first place. The answer is simple—money, more specifically, money from wealthy elites such as billionaire Paul Allen. Aa a result, at the federal level, for the first time in modern history, gun-control groups outspent the NRA and pro Second Amendment forces, during the 2018 midterm elections. This was complicated by the fact that President Trump was also (at about the same time) directing the Justice Department to issue regulations to ban bump stocks in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland FL—even though, a bump stock was not used in that event.
The new Democratic majority in the House recently held its first hearing on gun control in a decade, while new Democratic legislatures in several states are tripping over each other in an effort to out “gun control” each other.
“For far too long, Republicans in Congress have offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies. That era is over,” Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said as he convened the House Judiciary Committee hearing in recent weeks.
Grant County’s sheriff Tom Jones acknowledged that many residents in his part of the state are strong supporters of gun rights. They “have a right to have this challenge and appeals process play out before moving forward.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers stated that over 75 percent of voters in his county voted against the initiative. He called the new rules unenforceable.
Like anything, there is an opposing view. Not all Sheriffs put common sense and the people first. Some sheriffs, such as the ones in King County (which includes Seattle), and Clark County (near Portland, Oregon) have said they will enforce the measure while it is being challenged in court.
Another reason the law passed in the Evergreen state was that several provisions were bundled together. This can be a double-edged sword. One provision may be a poison pill that prevents someone from voting for a new law, or it may be a single piece that catches his or her eye without the full understanding of what the proposed legislation entails.
Carla Tolle of Kelso Washington supported I-1639 after her grandson was killed by a friend. Ultimately, the event was ruled as an accidental shooting. However, Tolle was later quoted as saying she was “shocked, devastated, and dumbfounded” by Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman’s decision to not enforce the new regulations until the legal case is resolved.
“He saw firsthand what happened with an unsecured firearm,” Tolle said. “He saw the effect on both families.”
Whether Tolle would have supported the full provisions of the initiative had a provision about storing firearms not been included is unclear, but you can see how a particular portion of a bill can resonate on a personal level. Playing on this type of emotion is common in politics and polling. The question or intro text paints a particular picture, “Are you in favor of criminals having illegal weapons?” The headline then reads 92 percent of people polled want stricter background checks.
NRA and Second Amendment Foundation
The NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation, which has its home in Washington state, sued in U.S. District Court last November, claiming the initiative violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Additionally, the Second Amendment defenders challenged that I-1639 violates gun sellers’ rights under the Commerce Clause.
“This measure will have a chilling effect on the exercise of the constitutional rights of honest citizens while having no impact on criminals, and we will not let it go unchallenged,” Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said when the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit does not directly challenge the parts of the law pertaining to enhanced background checks or training requirements. However, the groups asked the court to block the entire law pending a determination of whether those provisions can be separated from the parts they are seeking to block: the parts related to sales to those under 21 and to out-of-state residents.
The state has asked the judge to dismiss the NRA/SAF case, but that, in my opinion, is unlikely. Section 13 of the measure, which establishes age requirements, took effect on January 1, 2019. The rest of the measure’s provisions were set to take effect on July 1, 2019. That means some rights of the citizens are being trampled now while the anti-gunners salivate for what’s to come.
Which tack should the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation take to combat I-1639 in Washington state? How will you prevent similar gun control attempts in your state? Share your answers in the comment section.
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