Washington State Voters Organize Grassroots Effort to Repeal Controversial Gun Control Initiative 1639

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Posted: Nov 07, 2019 12:00 PM
Washington State Voters Organize Grassroots Effort to Repeal Controversial Gun Control Initiative 1639

Source: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Gun owners in Washington State have established an entirely grassroots initiative to overturn I-1639, the controversial gun control initiative that voters passed last November. 

The new law:

• Raised the age someone can purchase a rifle from 18 to 21.
• Created an "enhanced background check system similar to what is used for handguns."
• Required a person to complete a firearms safety training course.
• Created a common standard for secure gun storage.

Most voters throughout the state opposed the gun control measure, but metropolitan areas, which also happen to be liberal hotbeds, voted in favor of the proposal.

Although voters approved the measure in a 60-40 split, 27 of Washington's 39 county sheriffs said they refused to enforce the law, citing a clear violation of both the Washington State and United States Constitutions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter to those 27 sheriffs saying they have an obligation to enforce the law and he would do everything in his power to defend the legislation.

Gun owners are fighting back by starting a petition drive to get another initiative on the 2020 ballot, called I-1094, which would repeal I-1639.

“Democrats billed 1639 as a way of keeping schools safe," John Valle, I-1094's sponsor, told Townhall. "People didn’t read it."

Once the initiative was passed and people learned what was actually in the new law, people were furious. They realized what was passed wasn't about keeping schools and children safe.

"They felt duped," Valle said. "The number one thing I heard when 1639 passed was they [voters] didn't know all the stuff that was in it."

Issues Surrounding I-1639

There are the main points of contention for gun owners throughout Washington State. 

1. "Safe storage" requirement. 
If a gun owner is caught with an unlocked firearm, they're slapped with a $500 fine. If a prohibited possessor obtains the firearm, the gun owners face a $1,000 fine. If a firearm is stolen and used in the commission of a crime, the gun owner has to pay a $10,000 fine, the Seattle Times reported.

2. Permanent access to medical records.
In order to purchase a firearm, a gun owner has to sign over their medical records, which are normally protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). 

According to Attorney General Bob Ferguson's FAQ section, Washington's background check system doesn't violate HIPAA because "a signed application to purchase a pistol constitutes a waiver of confidentiality and written request that the Health Care Authority, mental health institutions, and other health care facilities release, to an inquiring court or law enforcement agency, information relevant to the applicant's eligibility to purchase a pistol."

3. Violation of Washington State's Constitution
Article 1, Section 4 of the Washington State Constitution clearly lays out an individual's right to keep and bear arms:

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.

Ballot Qualification

In order for I-1094 to qualify for the ballot, gun owners across the state need 260,000 valid signatures by January 3.

"I'm telling everyone we need 300,000 signatures because we know some signatures will be thrown out," Valle explained. "We've printed 20,000 petitions and have six distribution points across the state. People are then driving those petitions to where they need to go, even if it's hours away."

Valle and his team plan to use Black Friday to obtain a large number of signatures.

"We're encouraging husbands to take their wives shopping and while they're shopping, get signatures," he explained. 

The team is telling people to hit up stores like Cabela's and other hunting and fishing shops. 

"Go up and down the line and get signatures," Valle said. 

Mom and pop gun stores, ranges and sporting goods stores throughout the state have stepped up as signature locations. 

Legal Challenges

In addition to the ballot initiative process, Valle and his team have filed an ethics complaint against Ferguson for using the Office of the Attorney General to push I-1639.

Not only did Ferguson endorse I-1639, he continually sent letters to county sheriffs telling them to enforce the law. He also sent letters to Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) telling them they're required to follow the law.

"Ferguson is violating the state Constitution. If he's violating the state Constitution and not caring for the people, what else is he going to violate?" Valle asked. "What other rights will he take away? We have state and local politics and now national politics leaving us feeling duped."

Valle believes that, on the legal front, I-1639 would be tossed out.

"If there’s one part that’s wrong with the law, the whole thing gets tossed out," he said. He believes the legal challenge will come down to violating HIPAA and the state Constitution.

"Those would make it unconstitutional," Valle explained. "It's all a matter of time."