Washington State Initiative 1639 In Limbo

In November 2018, Washington State voters were asked to make a decision on new gun control regulations. I-1639 is titled “The Public Safety and Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Act”, which was declared as “An ACT to increase public safety by implementing firearm safety measures, including requiring enhanced background checks, waiting periods, and increased age requirements for semiautomatic assault rifles, and secure gun storage for all firearms.”

I-1639 became law after receiving a 59.35% yes vote, passing in 14 of the state’s 39 counties. The passage of this bill has led to intensely heated debates as well as challenges in court. In his notice to the citizens of Pend Oreille County, Sheriff Glenn Blakeslee notes that, “The only portion of this law currently in effect is section 13 regarding age restrictions.” In fact, “The rest of this law does not take effect until July 1st, 2019. Numerous lawsuits have been filed to challenge this law and it may look significantly different by then.”

Along with the lawsuits being filed, there is a growing list of sheriffs state-wide who have declared I-1639 to be unenforceable and/or unconstitutional. This list includes the sheriffs of Spokane, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties.

Recently, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich held a question and answer session with local reporters; the full video from this event is available on YouTube at DPGazette.com/i1639scs.  Throughout the event, Sheriff Knezovich remained firm in his refusal to publicly state if he would or would not enforce the new law, simply pointing out that, ”I-1639 doesn’t give a sheriff anything to enforce,” as the storage standards within the law remain undefined.

Clarifying further, Sheriff Knezovich stated that he believes I-1639 to be unconstitutional based off the 2008 Supreme Court Ruling in the case of the District of Columbia V. Heller , “…Heller is very definitive. You can’t restrict a person’s ability to access their weapon for self defense.” Before I-1639 could be enforced locally, the law would need to define what safe storage is and that definition would need to pass the standards set by the Heller decision. Sheriff Knezovich reiterated that, “The day that they finally come up with what safe storage really is going to mean, it’s going to have to survive that constitutional challenge.” Until then, it appears that the fate of I-1639 will remain in limbo.

Sources

  1. Washington Secretary of State. Initiative Measure No. 1639. DPGazette.com/i1639text Accessed 3, March, 2019
  2. Washington Secretary of State. November 6, 2108 General Election Results. Initiative Measure No. 1639 Initiative Measure No. 1639 concerns firearms. – County Results. DPGazette.com/i1639results Accessed 3, March, 2019.
  3. Office of the Sheriff, Pend Orielle County, Washington. News Release, 6, Feb. 2019. DPGazette.com/i1639pocs Accessed 3, March, 2019.
  4. SpokaneSheriff. 1, Feb. 2019. I-1639 Q&A With Local Reporters Regarding Washington’s Gun Control Law. DPGazette.com/i1639scs Accessed 3, March, 2019.
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