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Sheriff Announces He Won’t Enforce Washington’s New Gun Laws

A sheriff in Washington has said he had no intention of enforcing Initiative 1639 because it's unconstitutional.

Goldendale, WA – The Klickitat County sheriff has announced he has no intention of enforcing the state’s new gun initiative when it goes into full effect in July.

Newly-approved Initiative 1639 raises the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, calls for enhanced background checks, and requires buyers to complete a firearm safety course, according to The Seattle Times.

Additionally, the initiative makes a gun owner responsible if another person uses their weapon to harm themselves or somebody else.

“I think it’s a bad law and I think it violates people’s rights,” Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer told The Seattle Times. “This law will do nothing to stop crime or do anything to make our communities safer. But what it will do is make criminals out of our honest citizens.”

Sheriff Songer was not the first law enforcement official to say they didn’t plan to enforce the new gun law.

Both the Lewis County sheriff and the Republic police chief announced they had no intention of enforcing the law shortly after the initiative passed in November of 2018, The Seattle Times reported.

“The whole thing is bizarre,” Sheriff Songer told NRATV. “Government is getting too nosy, getting too much into your home, how you store your firearm… there’s already laws on the books for negligence so if you did something that was negligent, you could be charged. They don’t need these new laws.”

“I have over 48 years in law enforcement and I can tell you that I-1639 and laws like it will not do a dang thing to make our communities safer. What it will do is make honest gun owners, who had possession of legal guns at one point before the law was passed, it will make them into criminals,” the sheriff continued.

“I don’t know why these politicians just don’t wake up. I’ve dealt with bad guys for 48 years and I can tell you, they can care less what laws you pass. They’re going to have guns, they’re going to have knives, they’re going to have baseball bats, whatever they can get to commit crimes,” he said.

Sheriff Songer also expressed his concern that the law will create a black market on the streets for firearms.

The sheriff said his refusal to enforce I-1639 is not about his personal opinion, but rather the fact that the new law violates the state constitution.

He said he doesn’t agree with laws that legalize marijuana but he’s not refusing to enforce those laws because doing so doesn’t violate anybody’s rights.

Sheriff Songer also said the new background checks that probe mental-health issues are a violation of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), The Seattle Times reported.

Steven Strachan, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said that although not all sheriffs and chiefs were taking a hard line like Chief Songer, many were concerned about the constitutionality of the new law.

The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court in November of 2018 that challenged the constitutionality of I-1639, The Seattle Times reported.

Strachan said police officials are also worried about the additional workload on their departments when the enhanced background checks go into effect.

“The law is the law and we’ll follow the background check to the extent that we need to,” he said. “They’re preparing the best they can to meet that additional workload.”

Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana told The Seattle Times that his county is already very busy doing background checks for citizens who want to get concealed-carry permits.

“Some days they’re lined up at the door to get concealed-weapons permits,” Sheriff Dana said. “That’s just another thing.”

He said he planned to comply with the new law but exercise “discretion” in enforcing it.

“We all have discretion,” Sheriff Dana said. “We all have active crime going on and we’ll look at this on a case-by-case basis and go from there.”

Sandy Malone - January Tue, 2019


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