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The Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association have joined together to challenge parts of the recently passed Washington State Initiative 1639 in a federal lawsuit. The initiative contained a laundry list of gun control measures including a definition of an assault weapon (sic) that would include Ruger 10/22s, raised the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, specified waiting periods, enacted a safe storage provision, includes a $25 tax on each semi-automatic rifle sold, requires law enforcement to verify annually that owners of handguns and semi-auto rifles are legally allowed to own them, and it includes a training requirement.
The initiative was funded in great part by billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg, Nick Hanauer, and the late Paul Allen. The goal, while not state overtly, is to kill out the gun culture in Washington State by making it so onerous and creating such a slippery slope that casual gun owners will just give up. You can hear some thoughts on this from a Washington State resident in Episode 308 of The Squirrel Report podcast.
The lawsuit, Mitchell et al v. State of Washington et al, was filed on Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Washington. It is a complaint for both a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief based upon a claim of violations of the Commerce Clause, and the 2nd and 14th Amendment.
The plaintiffs are firearms dealers Daniel Mitchell and Robin Ball, 19 year old competitive shooter Luke Rettmer who is a member of the US Long Range Rifle Under 21 team, 19 year old Army reservist and college student Nathaniel Casey, and recreational shooters Armen Tooloee and Matthew Wald who are 20 and 19 years old respectively. The Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association are the organizational plaintiffs in the case.
The lawsuit focuses in on four aspects of I-1639 which goes into effect, in part, on January 1, 2019 with the remainder going into effect on July 1, 2019. First, it challenges Section 12 of the Initiative’s ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles to out-of-state residents on the grounds it “impermissibly burdens interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. I § 8 cl. 3.”
Secondly, the lawsuit challenges Section 13 of the Initiative which raises the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21. It seeks a declaration that “by preventing the sale to otherwise qualified adults under age 21 of certain rifles, impermissibly burdens their exercise of rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.” They are making this claim on behalf of both the Young Adult Plaintiffs and the Organizational Plaintiffs. It is asserted that no state interest justifies this infringement and that the ban is broader than needed to serve any “possible alleged governmental interest.”
Thirdly, the lawsuit contends that the Section 13 of the Initiative “impermissably burdens” the rights guaranteed to the Young Adult Plaintiffs under Article I Section 24 of the Washington Constitution.
Finally, the lawsuit says that the intention of Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson to enforce the provisions of I-1639 and will be acting under “color of law”. Thus, Ferguson will be depriving “plaintiffs of civil rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applied by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The plaintiffs seek to have the challenged portions of I-1639 declared unconstitutional and to enjoin enforcement of the entire I-1639 unless the challenged parts are ruled severable, and if so, then enforcement of the challenged parts.
The complaint in its entirety can be found here.
Both the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association have issued releases regarding this lawsuit.
Alan Gottlieb of SAF had this to say:
“We are also considering additional legal challenges,” SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb confirmed. “We are disappointed that too many Evergreen State voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme, despite overwhelming law enforcement opposition. This initiative is an affront to the constitutional rights enshrined in the Second Amendment and the Washington state constitution, especially for young adults.
“We’re determined to fight this egregious measure because constitutionally-protected rights should never be subject to a popularity vote,” he stated. “The wealthy elitists behind I-1639 want to turn a right into a regulated privilege. This measure was only designed to have a chilling effect on the exercise of a constitutional right by honest citizens while having no impact at all on criminals, and we cannot let it go unchallenged.”
Chris Cox of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action had similar comments:
“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA¹s Institute for Legislative Action. “I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense.”…
“The NRA will fight to overturn this unconstitutional initiative. We will not sit idly by while elitist anti-gun activists attempt to deny everyday Americans their fundamental right to self-defense,” concluded Cox.
I, for one, am quite pleased to see the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifles Association working together on this lawsuit and not competing with one another for bragging rights. This is the way it should be.