When the authors of Initiative 1639—the 30-page, multi-faceted gun control measure now facing Washington voters on the November ballot—defined a “semiautomatic assault rifle,” they created a split among firearms owners, leaving some to believe the authors to be “gun ignorant” or just incompetent, while others think they are trying to ensnare every self-loading rifle in the state with a wide net.
What seems clear is that the federal legal definition of a “semiautomatic rifle” was merely cut and pasted into the initiative, with the word “assault” inserted so as to capture literally all semi-auto rifles, including popular .22-caliber rimfires used by countless young hunters and adults for small game hunting, recreational shooting, rodent and predator control and even smallbore competition.
Here’s the language from 18 USCS § 921(28):
“The term ‘semiautomatic rifle’ means any repeating rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
Now, compare that wording with the language found at the bottom of Page 27 of the initiative:
“‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
Suddenly, the initiative is not just about “evil black guns” such as the AR15, but about such traditional and popular self-loaders as the Ruger 10/22, Marlin Model 60, Browning SA-22, Winchester Model 77 and even relics such as the Winchester Model 1903. The definition also captures popular big game hunting rifles such as the Remington Model 7400, Browning BAR and Winchester Model 100
Grassroots activists get more fired up about the initiative every day, and there have been workshops around the state to recruit grassroots volunteers for phone banks and “get out the vote” efforts. National Rifle Association field reps are working with gun shops, local gun clubs and range operators, and members from Ilwaco to Ione, and Coupeville to Clarkston.
Still, they are up against a formidable and well-financed gun prohibition lobby that has already invested more than $4 million to get the measure on the ballot. Bankrolled by billionaires, the I-1639 campaign
The “smart money” says the initiative will pass. However, the “smart money” also said Hillary Clinton would now be in the White House, rights activists counter.
The initiative would strip young adults of their Second Amendment right to purchase and own any semiautomatic rifle, critics argue. Those 18-20-year-olds would still be able to vote, join the military, serve on juries, and even run for political office.
Opponents say the measure contains a “hidden tax” of $25 to pay for “administrative costs” of the new requirements (Page 8, bottom), which include a so-called “enhanced background check” for adult buyers of semi-auto rifles. There is also a ten-day waiting period on semi-auto purchases, mandatory training, annual background checks, so-called “secure storage” requirement, and language would be removed from a Department of Fish and Wildlife that reminds people of the state preemption law.
And then there is this, at the bottom of Page 12:
“A signed application to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle shall constitute a waiver of confidentiality and written request that the health care authority, mental health institutions, and other health care facilities release, to an inquiring court or law enforcement agency, information relevant to the applicant’s eligibility to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle to an inquiring court or law enforcement agency.”
Critics say this is an unwarranted surrender of medical privacy to exercise a right protected by both the state and federal constitutions.
Long story short, I-1639 treats the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms like a government-regulated privilege, opponents argue. They are pushing for a full turnout of gun owners for the November election, reminding them that voting is easy. They never have to leave the house thanks to the mail-in ballots.
Their message to fellow gun owners: There will be no excuse for not voting.