A federal judge in Tacoma, WA told both sides in a lawsuit challenging provisions of gun control Initiative 1639 “I don’t share the hyperbole about the evil of guns or the sanctity of the right to self-defense,” before indicating he would rule on competing motions by the end of August.
I-1639 is the statewide measure passed by Washington voters in 2018 that prohibits young adults aged 18-20 from buying so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles.” The initiative also requires people who can buy such guns to provide proof of completing a firearms safety course sometime during the previous five years. There is also an “enhanced background check” and a 10-day waiting period, among other requirements.
The initiative actually created a definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle” for the first time anywhere in the nation. Yet, according to statements early in 2019 by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, that’s a firearm which actually does not exist. The definition applies to every semi-auto rifle ever manufactured, including .22-caliber small game rifles and training rifles for youngsters.
According to the Seattle Times, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton stated that plaintiffs under age 21 are “not adults.”
However, citizens over age 18 can vote, enter into contracts, serve in the military, start businesses, get married and legally purchase other types of long guns, such as bolt-action, lever-action or pump-action rifles and shotguns.
Arguing for plaintiffs in the case, including the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, two licensed firearms retailers and a trio of private citizens, attorney Joel Ard reportedly told the judge in a telephone hearing, “No other enumerated right has been withdrawn from adult citizens.”
While supporters of the law have argued there is nothing specific in the Constitution that allows an 18-year-old to purchase a semiautomatic rifle, critics of the law counter there is nothing specific about First Amendment protections for transmitting written or spoken words online, either.
The Times noted that Renee Hopkins, CEO of the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility—the billionaire-backed gun control group that backed the initiative—sent a statement to the court declaring, “The gun lobby lost in the court of public opinion two years ago and this lawsuit is a last-ditch effort to stop these lifesaving measures.”
A Times reader posted a comment with the newspaper noting, “There is no court of public opinion, in regards to constitutionality of laws or initiatives.”
SAF and NRA filed the lawsuit in February 2019, after challenging the measure in state court for non-compliance with the law regarding state initiatives. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the initiative could appear on the November ballot that year after a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the initiative petitions did not comply with the law.
The initiative was opposed by several major law enforcement groups, and following its passage, sheriffs in a majority of the state’s 39 counties said they would not actively enforce its provisions.