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Washington Showdown

Shelby Murdoc

The situation in the state of Washington is tense and getting tenser by the day. Ever since Initiative 1639 was passed by state voters in November elections, the war of words has been dialed to eleven and, now that the initiative is law, the harsh language has been replaced by action. Or, in the case of the law enforcement agencies that have refused to enforce it, the words have led to inaction.

Though a great many recently-proposed gun control measures across America have crashed and burned, gun grabbers have not been completely shut out, and Washington’s I-1639 is probably the fanciest belle at their victory ball. Among the law’s measures:

• Defines all semi-automatic rifles as “semiautomatic assault rifles”
• Citizens below 21 years of age cannot purchase any semi-automatic rifle
• Semi-automatic rifle purchases require an “enhanced” background check, proof completing of a firearms training course, and a 10-day waiting period
• Dealers may charge up to $25 per purchase to cover the cost of complying with the new regulations
• Out-of-state residents may not purchase semi-automatic rifles in Washington
• A new crime, “community endangerment,” has been created and if a gun owner’s firearms are stolen, he or she will be charged depending on how the criminal uses the stole weapon

Many—at least 20 now—of the state’s sheriffs have stated that they will not actively enforce the new law, and that is creating headlines and uproar across the state. “As a sheriff, you have a lot of discretion” explained Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke. “I will say that we are going to respect the Second Amendment.”

Let’s leave aside the arguments about the definition of “assault rifles” for now, as we are all tired of them. Just because residents of one state voted that they will insist that some words mean different things there does not mean that they changed what those words actually mean. Washington’s definition of “assault rifle” is even more restrictive than California’s, if you can believe it.

And let’s also not get into the fact that, when it comes to crimes involving guns, rifles are rarely used and laws controlling rifles will, therefore, have virtually no effect whatsoever on gun crime.

What it comes down to, in the end, is that the inalienable rights of American citizens are being violated using a simple majority vote. The overwhelming majority of the support for I-1639 was in the Seattle area, while voters outside of the big urban center were much less likely to vote for it. Like Illinois, where Chicago votes matter and the rest of the state has to just play along, residents of most of Washington are stuck doing things the way Seattle residents want them to, even when Spokane or rural areas have nothing in common with the metropolis.

“People have a right to protect themselves,” Stevens County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Rasmussen said. “I support efforts to reduce gun violence but not to the extent of depriving people of their constitutional rights.”

In order to force everyone to reduce gun violence, some have taken to threatening sheriffs with gun violence. One outraged supporter of I-1639 posted about it on social media. “Sheriff Knezovich is going to get a bullet in his skull,” one post read, referring to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, one of those who noted he was not going to actively enforce the law at this point. Another post on the account stated, “Sheriffs that are non-compliant will be shot. By me.”

That is a weird position to take as someone supporting a law that, supposedly, aims to reduce gun violence. It’s almost like the “control” part of “gun control” is more important to many supporters than the “gun” part, and that violence is not the answer unless it’s them handing it out. Law enforcement is investigating this threat and other similar cases.

Also odd is the way that Seattle is up in arms—literally, it seems—over some sheriffs failing to enforce a new gun control law when Seattle itself is a so-called “sanctuary city” where federal laws regarding illegal aliens are ignored and that policy is applauded and praised.

Seattle mayor Ed Murray said that keeping the city a “sanctuary city” was “the most American thing we could possibly do.” Well, I would suggest that refusing to enforce unconstitutional laws that deprive American citizens of their guaranteed rights is far more American. By a long shot.

Lawsuits have been filed and a vicious legal battle is brewing. Is it possible that I-1639 went too far and too wide, leaving itself open to a defeat in the courts? We can hope so. In the meantime, prepare for a wild ride that could end up helping shape national laws when the dust settles.

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