The Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association have jointly filed a lawsuit in federal district court for the Western District of Washington, challenging Initiative 1639 in Washington State.
Named as Defendants are the State of Washington and Attorney General Bob Ferguson in his official capacity.
It is the latest chapter in a battle that saw the measure temporarily removed from the ballot in late summer by a Thurston County Superior Court judge who determined that initiative petitions did not comply with state law. Both NRA and SAF filed challenges to the initiative.
However, a week later, the state Supreme Court overruled and placed the initiative back on the ballot. I-1639 was the only gun control issue on the ballot anywhere in the United States this fall. It was supported by the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a Seattle-based gun control lobbying group.
The lawsuit challenges the measure on the grounds that it violates the commerce clause by banning sales of rifles to non-residents, and that it unconstitutionally impairs the rights guaranteed by the First, Second and Fourteenth Amendments, and Article I Section 24 of the Washington State constitution by preventing the sale to otherwise qualified adults under age 21 of certain rifles, according to a SAF news release.
“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense.”
“We are disappointed that too many voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme, despite overwhelming law enforcement opposition,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This initiative is an affront to the constitutional rights enshrined in the Second Amendment and the Washington state constitution. 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.”
Gottlieb noted that “additional legal challenges” might be on the horizon. He may be right as Second Amendment activists have been discussion all kinds of potential issues in the days since the measure passed Nov. 6.
Both Cox and Gottlieb left no doubt that they are determined to vigorously fight the measure, which contains provisions for so-called “enhanced background checks,” “secure storage” and a training requirement, along with a ten-day waiting period. The initiative also creates a new felony-level crime called “community endangerment.” This could be used to prosecute gun owners whose firearms fall into the wrong hands and are used to harm someone or commit a crime. Depending upon the severity, a violation could either be a Class-C felony or gross misdemeanor.
Already, the police chief in Republic, the Ferry County seat, has announced his department will not enforce provisions of the measure. Rank-and-file law enforcement organizations were uniformly opposed to the initiative.
Alliance for Gun Responsibility spokesman Tallman Trask told KCPQ, the Seattle FOX affiliate, that his group would fight to defend the law. He was quoted by TIME, stating that I-1639 is “the single most comprehensive gun violence prevention measure in Washington state history. It will make our state safer and help save lives.”
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said via e-mail to KCPQ that, “We intend to defend the will of the voters in this state.”