The following editorial was originally published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
Is Washington state’s Initiative 1639, which raised the legal purchase age for semi-automatic rifles to 21 and added enhanced background checks and a safe gun-storage provision, constitutional?
At this point, that remains unclear. But as the full voter-approved law went into effect on Monday (although the age restriction went on the books in January), it’s now ripe to be challenged in court. It’s highly likely legal challenges will be coming and courts will consider the constitutional concerns surrounding I-1639 as well as the dubious way signatures were garnered to put it on the ballot.
To be clear, we believe I-1639 is a lousy voter-approved law.
However, until a ruling striking the initiative down is made, the public — as well as law enforcement officials — must follow the law. Earlier this year a few county sheriffs in Eastern Washington and at least one police chief stated they would not enforce the law because they disagree with it. Law enforcement officials, however, have a sworn duty to uphold the law regardless of their personal feelings or beliefs.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said officials could be civilly liable if they don’t enforce the law and someone then sues their city or county.
The age restriction for purchase that went into effect in January has already been challenged by gun-rights advocates as an infringement of the Second Amendment.
Yet, The Seattle Times reported last week, even a clear ruling by the state Supreme Court won’t settle the matter. A Republican state legislator said he wouldn’t agree with a state Supreme Court decision that upheld I-1639.
That stand isn’t American, and it should not tolerated by the public.
The legal challenges that have been filed, as well as those that are expected to be filed, need to be fully explored by the judicial system — perhaps all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But for now I-1639 is the law in Washington state and must be followed, at least until the time a court rules the initiative invalid or unconstitutional.