Only days after the FBI’s annual crime report appeared showing that rifles of any kind are used in a fraction of homicides in Washington State—thereby weakening arguments in support of a far-reaching gun control initiative—three major law enforcement groups are taking positions against the measure, according to an announcement by the National Rifle Association.
The revelation came coincidentally with a report from the state Department of Licensing that there are now more than 598,000 active concealed pistol licenses in circulation. That’s up more than 3,400 from the number posted at the end of August, an indication that Evergreen State gun owners are taking measures to protect their self-defense rights.
Washingtonians and the National Rifle Association for Freedom announced late Monday afternoon that the Washington State Sheriffs Association (WSSA), the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) and the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) are lining up against Initiative 1639. That’s the gun control measure backed by Seattle-area billionaires and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
The 30-page initiative was “poorly drafted,” according to the gun rights group. In a report late Monday, I-1639 opponents quoted statements from the three law enforcement groups:
“The Washington State Sheriffs Association, at their Sept. 26, 2018 meeting, made a motion opposing Initiative I-1639,” according to the statement. “The motion carried. As the association representing the unique perspective of law enforcement leaders who have been directly elected by the residents of Washington’s counties, we look forward to continuing to engage and play a part in any changes in Washington’s firearms laws.”
“WACOPS believe that Initiative 1639 contains provision that are in clear violation of both state and federal individual constitutional rights, which, as law enforcement, officers, WACOPS members are sworn to uphold,” Executive Director Teresa Taylor reportedly said. “In addition to the constitutional issues, this 30-page initiative, if passed, would impose significant restrictions on a citizen’s ability to possess and access commonly owned firearms for lawful self-defense.”
“Initiative 1639 is being promoted as a public safety measure; those actually working law enforcement know that it will do nothing to stop a single crime,” WSLEFIA contends. “This initiative has nothing to do with ‘assault weapons’ and is directed only at our good citizens who already pass multiple background checks before owning a firearm. I-1639 is an attack on civil rights and is an attempt to marginalize all firearm owners, including law enforcement officers. I-1639 will impair public safety, embolden criminals and impose burdensome restrictions on our most law-abiding citizens.”
This is a major new development in what so far has been a grassroots battle against the gun control initiative with pro-rights activists waging a David-versus-Goliath campaign on a comparably meager budget while gun control advocates have raised and spent more than $4.3 million. The bulk of that money came from about ten wealthy Seattle-area anti-gunners.
Of the law enforcement groups, WSLEFIA has spelled out its concerns about I-1639 at its website.
Initiative opponents may be buoyed by law enforcement opposition to I-1639, as it will make their task easier by telling voters that even cops don’t like this gun control measure. On the other hand, I-1639 backers may have some awkward moments trying to explain why sheriffs and police are lining up against them.
Early last week, NRA was joined by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Washington Arms Collectors in a display of unity to fight the initiative.
I-1639 would raise the age for purchasing any semiautomatic rifle to age 21. Under language in the measure, all semi-auto rifles in the state are classified as “semiautomatic assault rifles.” A 10-day waiting period on the purchase of a semi-auto is imposed, as is a training requirement, annual background checks, a $25 paperwork fee that many say is a hidden tax on the exercise of a right, and gun owners are required to lock up their guns, unloaded, or face prosecution if a gun is stolen and used in a crime.
Initiative backers argue that their measure is “common sense” and “responsible.” But gun owners say they are reaching too far.