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.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Needles littered the ground throughout a homeless encampment at Federal Way’s Hylebos Wetlands, which is public property. Sound Publishing file photo
Republican leadership doubts effectiveness of homelessness spending

Democrats propose hundreds of millions toward affordable housing.

Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht gave a response to an Office of Law Enforcement Oversight report on Feb. 25 before the King County Law and Justice Committee. The report recommended ways her department could reform use of force policy and internal investigations. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Council unsatisfied with Sheriff’s response to use of deadly force report

The King County Sheriff’s Office could be required to explain why it didn’t implement recommendations.

King County approves low-income Metro fare waivers

Low-income transit riders could see their King County Metro fares waived beginning… Continue reading

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
Charter amendments could allow King County Council to remove elected officials

The change was recommended by the charter review commission.

Voters could vote to affirm subpoena powers for civilian KCSO oversight agency

The King County charter review commission recommended enshrining the power in the charter.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democratic lawmakers roll out spending plans for climate change, homelessness

Republican opposition calls for tax relief, rather than spending the increased revenue.

Welcoming Kirkland’s lead facilitator, James Whitfield, headed the Feb. 20 meeting. Blake Peterson/staff photo
‘We’re collecting all input’: Welcoming Kirkland has second town hall meeting

Like its Feb. 15 predecessor, the Feb. 20 gathering was focused on business and police protocols.

Big Finn Hill Park entrance. Blake Peterson/staff photo
Kirkland council, police address Big Finn Hill Park security concerns

Currently, Big Finn Hill Park is operated and maintained by King County as a regional park.

The Colstrip Power Plant in Montana. Puget Sound Energy owns 25 percent of the remaining two units. File photo
PSE files to sell part of Colstrip coal plant

The utility owns two units at the Montana power plant.

Most Read