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Sheriff calls WA law raising gun age to 21 ‘unconstitutional’ on Facebook

Modern rifles. (Amenhtp/WikiCommons)
February 06, 2019

Law enforcement officers have spoken out about the new Washington law that raises the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich called the law unconstitutional and he has declared that he won’t stand behind or endorse it, KREM 2 News reported.

He said that other neighboring counties won’t be endorsing it either because there is nothing to enforce. Adjacent counties, including Adams, Benton, Lewis, and Republic will be “grandstanding” the new law in hopes that others will follow suit.

Washington Initiative 1639, the “Changes to Gun Ownership and Purchase Requirements Measure,” was passed as a ballot initiative in the Nov. 2018 election. The age restriction went into effect on Jan. 1, and the other parts of the bill go into effect this summer.

I-1639 requires gun buyers to complete a firearm safety course and endure enhanced criminal background checks, implements a 10-day waiting period, and raises the age requirements.

With the new law, gun owners could also be prosecuted for not securely storing their firearms.

Knezovich said that the law “is unconstitutional at the state and federal level.” He added I-1639 should not have become law and is “not about school safety or protection.”

Several sheriffs have released their own statements in which they have declared the unconstitutionality of the law and their refusal to enforce it, KREM 2 News reported.

Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones, Okanogan County Sheriff Anthony Hawley, Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett, Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke, Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris, Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, and Adams County Sheriff Dale Wagner have all released public statements and remarks deeming the law “non-enforceable.”

The new law is unclear to many, especially for gun dealers.

“Right now, we have not had direction from the state of Washington to tell us who we can and cannot sell semi-automatic rifles to,” said Sharp Shooting manager Jeremy Ball.

Ball added, “When a lot more of these go into effect, we hope they’re a little more organized in making sure they’re streamlining information out to us as dealers. Just so we can make sure we’re staying in compliance with the state regulations.”

In regard to storage, the new law would make it a crime if someone other than the owner obtains a gun and commits a crime.

The law states that the weapon must be stored so that a “prohibited person” cannot access it. Prohibited persons include any person who does not have legal authorization to use it.

Some exemptions will apply, including if a gun is stolen and reported to authorities within five days, or if a supervised minor accesses the gun with permission from a parent or guardian.

I-1639 does not apply to “prohibited persons” if they use the gun for legal self-defense acts.

The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit on Nov. 15, 2018 to challenge the law.