The passage of I-1639 makes Washington State’s gun laws amongst the toughest in the country.
Initiative 1639 does the following:
• Raises the legal age to purchase semiautomatic rifles from the federal limit of 18 to 21.
• Requires an enhanced background check, training requirements, and a waiting period of 10 business days would also be required.
• Adds a “Safe Storage” provision, which the Seattle Times says creates gross misdemeanor and felony classes of a new crime, “community endangerment.”
According to Ballotpedia, the contentious referendum passed with 60 percent of the vote.
The Times reports that the “safe storage” provision will force gun owners to lock their firearms up with trigger locks or in safes, costing them valuable time if they should ever need to use their firearm in home or self defense. Failure to comply could result in gross misdemeanor or felony “community endangerment” charges.
Vox reminds us that research indicates that restrictions on so-called “assault weapons” don’t have any significant effect on overall gun violence, because these weapons are rarely used in shootings: Shootings with rifles, including “assault” rifles, make up less than three percent of gun homicides in the U.S. More people are killed annually with hammers and clubs.
The initiative almost didn’t make the ballot box, thanks to a series of lawsuits. The National Rifle Association filed a suit challenging the ballot title and summary; as a result, the title and summary were rewritten, Ballotpedia reports. Another lawsuit aiming to keep the initiative off the ballot was dismissed.
On August 17, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled in favor of the NRA, stating that the ballot language and petition format did not meet statutory requirements and, therefore, that the obtained signatures were invalid and the measure should be stricken from the ballot. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, proponents of the initiative, appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, who reversed the lower court’s ruling on August 24, according to the story.
“A handful of billionaires put in millions of dollars to buy votes and we were outspent,” Alan Gottlieb of the Bellevue, Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told the Seattle Times, referring to the more than $5.5 million dollars donated to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group behind I-1639, by a handful of wealthy donors such as venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died last month.
I-1639 violates the Second Amendment rights of the people of Washington State. It severely hinders anyone under the age of 21 from defending themselves, and it will do almost nothing to decrease crime. Some may argue that it will only embolden criminals, knowing that the victim pool is less likely to be able to defend themselves.