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One State Sees Sheriffs Mostly Ignore New Gun Law

Ballot Initiative 1639 is divisive, to say the least
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2019 6:00 PM CST
In this file photo, sales clerk Tom Wallitner holds up a Mossberg 715T .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle during an auction at Johnny's Auction House in Rochester, Wash.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(Newser) – Washington state may have passed a gun-control law, but will it be enforced? Not by at least 20 sheriffs—over half of those in the state—while some county governments are resisting the resolution and at least one state lawmaker wants a separate state, the Guardian reports. Ballot Initiative 1639, which passed in November with over 60% of the vote, is mostly about restricting semiautomatic rifles. It adds background checks, waiting periods, storage requirements, and raises the minimum purchasing age from 18 to 21. But Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke is among those who won't pursue violators unless public safety is threatened: "When my 19-year-old daughter can't carry a .22 rifle off our property but we can send her off to war—I don't agree with that at all," he told the Chinook Observer earlier this month.

On the legal level, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote an open letter to law officers saying he believes the law is constitutional and will resist challenges in court, per the Seattle Times. The main challenge, from the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation, argues that the law tramples on the rights of Washingtonians. Republican State Rep. Matt Shea is so upset he's calling for a breakaway state: "We're not going to live in a state that takes away our firearms," he said in Olympia earlier this month, per the Spokesman-Review. "The only solution left is a 51st state." But Ferguson sees another solution: holding law officers liable if they refuse to enforce I-1639 and someone inflicts harm with an illegally obtained weapon. Personal views "do not absolve us of our duty to enforce Washington laws and protect the public," he writes. (Read more gun control stories.)

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