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@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.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

File photo
Snow Lake, located near Snoqualmie Pass in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Washington releases new forest plan

It outlines ways the state will protect and maintain forest health.

Sage Viniconis is a career performing artist in King County who’s been out of work and seeking creative outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo/Sage Viniconis
Puget Sound artists adapt creativity, and business sense, to pandemic

Artists Sunday is an online directory that connects artists across the county, state and nation.

Chris Fagan trekking across Antarctica in 2014. Contributed by Chris Fagan
South Pole or Bust

The story of a North Bend couple who trekked across Antarctica.

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County Council passes $12.59 billion biennial budget

King County Council on Nov. 17 passed a $12.59 billion biennial budget… Continue reading

pexels
EvergreenHealth receives stroke care certification

The hospital system was able to demonstrate quality care and an advanced stroke program

State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) authored the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. Mullet represents the 5th Legislative District. File photo
Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

Tim Eyman get in some last minute campaigning for I-976 in downtown Bellevue on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2019. File photo
Eyman fights allegation he repeatedly broke campaign laws

In a lawsuit, the state accuses the prolific initiative promoter of getting kickbacks.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant. File photo
State halts indoor service at bars, restaurants, home guests

Amid soaring new coronavirus cases and an overburdened health care system, the state’s clamping down.

t
McGovern completes his wish by shopping for young patients

Mercer Island teen visits Macy’s in Bellevue.

Aaron Kunkler/staff photoAlvin Sweet is a resident of Martin Court in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Martin Court is a former motel which was transformed into a supportive housing complex two decades ago. New funding from King County’s Health through Housing ordinance could expand this type of program across the county.
King County wants to buy motels for emergency, affordable housing

The concept has proven results in addressing homelessness.

From police footage of the Oct. 24 protest. Courtesy photo/Bellevue Police Dept. Twitter Account
Bellevue protest saw no injuries, no property damage as city issued civil emergency

The protest on the Eastside from Seattle organizers made some noise Saturday

Courtesy photo
State demanded more drop boxes, and now it must pay for them

A King County judge says a law requiring more ballot boxes was an illegal unfunded mandate.