UPDATED: As law enforcement opposition to Washington State’s gun control Initiative 1639 continues to climb, a report on the measure – the only gun control ballot issue anywhere in the country this fall – in the Seattle Times appears to downplay it by noting that the measure “has support from some of King County’s top law-enforcement officials.”
The story notes, “two of King County’s top law-enforcement officials, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, have come out in favor of the measure, as has state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.”
Indeed, Johanknecht is one of the signers of the “For” statement in the voters’ pamphlet.
Grassroots rights activists are pretty handy with pocket calculators. Opposing I-1639, as reported earlier by Liberty Park Press, are the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association (WSPTA), Washington State Sheriffs Association (WSSA), Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) and Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA). According to the Times report, the Washington Fraternal Order of Police (WAFOP) is also opposing the measure. Add to that the Cowlitz County Deputies and Sergeant’s Guild, and Kitsap County Sheriff Gary Simpson.
According to the Times, which encouraged a “Yes” vote on I-1639 earlier this month, WACOPS represents “more than 4,300 law-enforcement officers around the state.” The state FOP represents 2,600 members, the newspaper said. The other groups represent even more professionals. Overall, these groups represent thousands of rank-and-file police officers, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies across the state.
UPDATE: According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 10,718 sworn law enforcement officers in Washington State.
That was down from the 11,411 sworn officers on the job in Washington in 2008, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. At that time, there were 174 sworn officers for every 100,000 state residents, the lowest ratio of all 50 states.
Meanwhile, the Tri-City Herald has joined the ranks of newspapers opposed to I-1639, emphasizing the law enforcement opposition to the measure. In its editorial, the newspaper notes, “…I-1639 is too far-reaching. We would rather see a gun measure that targets criminals instead of law-abiding citizens.”
Five major law enforcement organizations is what the Times report describes as “a handful of law enforcement groups” while noting the opposition of three officials from King County, two of whom aren’t even police officers, including Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Meanwhile, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs has assumed its traditional stance of not taking a position one way or the other.
Suppose all those groups were supporting the billionaire-backed 30-page gun control initiative.
Sheriff Simpson, in a letter published on social media Tuesday, contended that “there are numerous aspects of this initiative which are essentially impossible for law enforcement to appropriately respond to.”
“As the executive law enforcement officer for Kitsap County,” Sheriff Simpson continued, “I question whether our office can meet the expectations of this measure as written. Along with my colleagues at the Washington State Sheriffs Association, we are elected by the voters of each of our counties to enforce these provisions, yet we have not been involved or provided any input into the initiative or the policies created by its text. As your elected law enforcement officials, we believe we should play a critical role in any process involved in proposing changes to firearms legislation.”
But it was the closing sentence in his statement that might carry the most weight.
“This initiative places a greater burden on law abiding citizens and law enforcement while creating no additional accountability for criminals,” Sheriff Simpson concluded.
By no small coincidence, that is essentially what I-1639 opponents have been saying for months, and now that a sheriff has said it, they’re hoping that maybe voters will listen now that ballots are out and people are making their decisions.