SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb suggested that an anti-gun lobbying group jumped the gun when it announced a federal lawsuit against Initiative 1639 had been dropped. The lawsuit was simply withdrawn and refiled in federal court in Tacoma. (Dave Workman)
The Seattle-based gun prohibition lobby that supported a citizen initiative now being challenged in federal court declared victory too soon when plaintiffs simply changed the defendants in their challenge of anti-gun Initiative 1639, according to KIRO Radio news, which broke the story.
The initiative was passed by voters last fall but already garnering resistance from a majority of county sheriffs.
This comes as Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who endorsed I-1639, has sent an open letter to the sheriffs, threatening them if they don’t enforce the law, the Seattle Times is reporting. In his letter, Ferguson promises he will defend the initiative against any legal challenge.
But according to Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, “The Attorney General has been dropped as a defendant because he says he shouldn’t be a defendant in the case and defend the law. So we named a police chief and a sheriff instead.”
The measure is being challenged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Plaintiffs are SAF, the National Rifle Association, two firearms retailers and four young adults whose Second Amendment rights are essentially stripped by the new law.
One of those plaintiffs, Nathaniel Casey, was denied purchase of a semi-auto rifle last week, according to KXLY News.
Instead of Ferguson, the re-filed lawsuit is now naming Clark County Sheriff Charles Atkins, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl and Teresa Berntsen, director of the state Department of Licensing. It was quietly re-filed Friday, according to an attorney representing the plaintiffs, but news of the development was apparently lost in the snow storm panic.
But the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility essentially went off half-cocked with a news release declaring that the plaintiffs had “voluntarily dismissed their suit.” Well, not exactly.
Here’s what Alliance CEO Renee Hopkins stated:
“We have always been confident that Initiative 1639 would withstand this challenge. While this is not exactly the path we expected, the outcome is the same: Initiative 1639 remains the law of the land in Washington. A number of law enforcement officials have come forward recently claiming they will not enforce the initiative while this challenge makes its way through the courts. Now that there is no longer a pending lawsuit, we expect these sheriffs will stop playing politics with the safety of their communities and resume doing their job by enforcing the laws of our state and respecting the will of Washingtonians.”
The federal lawsuit remains pending. County sheriffs who have declared they will not enforce provisions of the initiative on constitutional grounds evidently have no reason to change their minds.
In an interview with KIRO radio’s Hanna Scott, Gottlieb observed, “I don’t know why the Alliance put a release out, it’s sloppy on their part.”
I-1639 was sold to voters as a school safety measure, but opponents contend there is nothing in its 30 pages that specifically deals with that subject. There are a lot of other components of the initiative, which some people believe violates the single subject rule for citizen initiatives in Washington. However, no lawsuit has been filed so far on that issue.
The SAF/NRA lawsuit asserts that the measure “drastically rewrites statutes governing purchase, sale, and ownership of firearms in common use in the state of Washington. It thereby infringes on the Plaintiffs’ right under the Commerce Clause…and the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.”
At issue are parts of the initiative that prohibit young adults ages 18-20 from buying and owning so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles.” The initiative includes a sweeping definition of such a firearm that makes every semi-auto rifle ever manufactured a so-called “assault rifle.”
As argued recently by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, there really is no such thing, but by passing the initiative, anti-gunners now have a definition that he believes they plan to use at some future date to ban “assault rifles.” Knezovich was recently threatened on social media for not enforcing the law.
But there are other issues, including the “enhanced background checks” that will be required of the sheriffs starting July 1. These checks require applicants who want to buy a so-called “assault rifle” must allow law enforcement access to their medical records, which opponents say violates federal HIPAA privacy.
In his open letter to the sheriffs, Ferguson contended that, “Under Article 1, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution, “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
But many Evergreen State rights activists think Ferguson should pay equal attention to Article 1, Section 24 of the state Constitution, which says, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
I-1639, opponents argue, is 30 pages of impairment that they hope will be nullified by the court.