Ferguson contacts WA sheriffs about enforcing gun control measure

Letter addresses points of confusion over Initiative 1639

File photo

File photo

By Madeline Coats, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a “Frequently Asked Questions” document March 4 about Initiative 1639, sending letters to all 39 sheriffs across the state regarding the enforcement of a controversial gun control measure.

In his letter, Ferguson highlights examples of misunderstandings from news reports. The FAQ document addresses points he says caused confusion.

Washington residents approved the initiative by a vote of nearly 60 percent last November. I-1639 aims to increase public safety by reducing gun violence and accidents. The law creates an enhanced background check system, requires individuals to complete a firearm safety training course, raises the age of possession to 21 years old, and establishes standards for safe storage of guns. It also redefines a semi-automatic rifle as an “assault rifle” under state law.

The attorney general sent a letter Feb. 12 to more than half of the state’s top county law enforcement officials who said they would refuse to fully enforce the gun control measure.

Approximately 23 of the 39 sheriffs have refused to enforce the new law. The FAQ list identified and answered 16 questions pertaining to the measure. The document responded to common questions about compliance, constitutionality, and the role of law enforcement officials with the new provisions.

According to Ferguson’s answers, residents and sheriffs still need to comply with the requirements of I-1639, regardless of any lawsuits. The law is presumed constitutional unless a court rules otherwise, the FAQ states. Police chiefs or sheriffs could be held liable for refusing to perform the enhanced background check.

Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer is extremely committed to fight for the Second Amendment of any law. The sheriff has spent 48 years enforcing the law, but does not plan to enforce I-1639.

“This law will not do one thing to make it safer for our community,” Songer said. “It will not make a difference.”

Songer said that individuals cannot protect themselves from a burglary or crime in the middle of the night if their gun is locked in a safe.

“The Second Amendment is extremely important,” Songer said. “If we lose it, we might as well lose the rest of the amendments.”

The FAQ states that I-1639 does not require law enforcement to enter a home to check on firearm storage. There are strict constitutional limits on when law enforcement can enter your home, as referenced in the document.

Ferguson ends his letter to law enforcement by stating that no court has found I-1639 in violation of the Second Amendment. However, a civil rights lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington on behalf of several plaintiffs including people between the ages of 18 and 21, a gun store owner, the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation.

The plaintiffs allege I-1639 violates their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

More in News

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

PSE’s battery storage project could help the clean energy roll-out

The tiny pilot project in Glacier could eventually be expanded.

Kirkland officer fatally shoots man threatening 18-month-old child

King County Sheriff’s Office will conduct investigation into shooting.

An aerial photo shows the locations of two earthquakes and five aftershocks in and near Monroe, which rattled the Puget Sound region early Friday. The first was the magnitude 4.6 quake at upper right, 13 miles under the intersection of U.S. 2 and Fryelands Boulevard SE at 2:51 a.m. The second, magnitude 3.5, occurred 18 miles under the Old Snohomish-Monroe Road at 2:53 a.m. The aftershocks followed during the ensuing two hours. This image depicts an area about 3 miles wide. (Herald staff and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network)
Early wake-up call: Twin quakes under Monroe rattle region

Thousands of people felt them. They were magnitude 4.6 and 3.5 and hit minutes apart.

Courtesy photo
King County Sheriff’s Office has been giving ICE unredacted information

Both the office and jail have supplied the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

‘Feedback loops’ of methane, CO2 echo environmental problem beyond Washington

University of Washington among researchers of climate change’s effects in global temperatures.

A sign in 132nd Square Park updates residents on the potential improvements taking place within the park. Madeline Coats/staff photo
Kirkland park board reviews concepts for 132nd Square Park

The city aims to better manage stormwater in Totem Lake/Juanita Creek basin.

Northwest University awaits approval of 20-year master plan

Plan includes the addition of four new structures and the replacement of three existing buildings.

Most Read