OLYMPIA, Wash. - An important reminder for local gun dealers and buyers: The remaining provisions of Initiative 1639, Washington's strictest gun legislation in recent memory, goes into effect on July 1.
The part of the initiative that raises the purchasing age for "semi-automatic assault rifles" to 21 went into effect last January, but on July 1, those who purchase or sell firearms will be dealing with new restrictions.
According to Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office, those restrictions include:
- Enhanced background check and waiting period requirements for the purchase or transfer of semiautomatic assault rifles
- Training requirements to purchase a semiautomatic assault rifle
- Criminal liability for failure to safely secure a firearm under certain conditions
- Safety warning and safe storage requirements for dealers
Nearly 60% of Washington voters approved the initiative. However, the vast majority of eastern Washington rejected it, including Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Walla Walla and Kittitas counties.
At least 13 sheriffs from the state's 39 counties have said they won't enforce the law. Some have said they will instruct their deputies to document violations and forward them to the prosecutor's office.
Virtually all of those opposed to the law say it infringes on U.S. citizens' Second Amendment right to bear arms.
In a statement, Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana wrote, "I-1639 asks my Deputies to criminally charge a citizen if, without their knowledge, someone steels [sic] one of their lawfully owned guns and uses it in the commission of a crime. We will not do this. Just as we would not charge the owner of a truck if someone stole their keys and used it to mow down pedestrians."
Contrarily, Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider said while he strongly opposes the legislation, he will enforce it.
"We do not pick and choose which laws we enforce, we enforce all laws equally whether we agree with them or not," Sheriff Crider said.
Back in early January, West Richland Police Chief Ben Majetich said the provision that raises the purchasing age to 21 would not be enforceable until July 1 because the term "assault rifle" is only defined in a separate part of the imitative.
In response to widespread criticism, Ferguson argued that the law is constitutional and that he plans to defend the legislation against any legal challenge it faces.
"Local law enforcement officials are entitled to their opinions about the constitutionality of any law, but those personal views do not absolve us of our duty to enforce Washington laws and protect the public," said Ferguson.
Ferguson said that law enforcement leaders who refuse to enforce the law may be held liable for their lack of action.
Locally, commissioners in Benton and Franklin County have both passed a resolution in support of Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher and Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond, both of whom have said they will not be enforcing I-1639.
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