U.S.A. – A federal judge in Tacoma has denied a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year that challenges provisions of a restrictive gun control initiative adopted last fall by Washington State voters, providing an important win for gun rights activists in the Pacific Northwest.
The lawsuit challenges Initiative 1639, a billionaire-backed measure that strips young adults of their Second Amendment rights to purchase semiautomatic rifles of any kind unless they are over age 21. The initiative also places training requirements on buyers of any semi-auto rifle, requires so-called “safe storage,” registration, so-called “enhanced background checks” and other mandates.
The ruling, which may be read here, was handed down by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton.
Perhaps the most onerous of the measure’s provisions is that it includes a definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle” that literally covers every self-loading rifle ever manufactured. According to Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who said earlier this year there really is no such thing as a “semi-auto assault rifle,” but the initiative simply invented a definition that, if upheld, can then be used in the future to further regulate or even ban such firearms.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, two Evergreen State firearms retailers and four young adults. They contend that the “multi-faceted initiative violates the commerce clause by banning sales of rifles to non-residents, and that it unconstitutionally impairs the rights guaranteed by the First, Second and Fourteenth Amendments, and Article I Section 24 of the Washington State constitution by preventing the sale of certain rifles to otherwise qualified adults under age 21,” according to a SAF news release.
The initiative campaign was backed by the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a gun prohibition organization primarily funded by wealthy elitists in the Seattle area, plus Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. It was officially sponsored by “Safe Schools Safe Communities.”
Lined up against the measure were the NRA, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and several law enforcement organizations.
It’s been several months since the lawsuit was filed, and SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb was relieved that he could finally update supporters.
“The long delay is over,” Gottlieb said. “The important aspects of the motion to dismiss have been denied. Just as important, the judge’s ruling treats the Second Amendment as any other fundamental individual right that is constitutionally protected.”
Over the past several months, individual members of the Washington Arms Collectors, an organization directly affected by the initiative because of the 10-day waiting period mandate, have been donating to support the legal action.
I-1639 spanned 30 pages and was initially thrown off the ballot by a Thurston County Superior Court judge for not complying with state requirements regarding how the initiative was printed on the back of initiative petitions. Judge James Dixon said he could not read the tiny typeface used to print the entire initiative language on the petition, nor did it show underlines designating new language and cross-outs showing what language would be repealed by passage of the measure. But the State Supreme Court reversed him a week later and placed the measure back on the November ballot.
With this ruling, Gottlieb said the state, and the initiative proponents “are on the defensive.” If history is any indicator, anti-gunners will be sending fundraising emails accusing the NRA and its allies of trying to thwart the will of the people.
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