Washington gun law provisions effective July 1, but some sheriffs say they won’t enforce it

SEATTLE -- More provisions from the sweeping gun control measure Initiative 1639 will become effective Monday, July 1 across the state of Washington.

A new age restriction on buying semi-automatic assault rifles was effective at the beginning of the year, but a portion that includes tougher background checks and a requirement for gun owners to secure their firearms or risk being held liable if their gun is used to commit a crime if stolen will soon take effect.

I-1639 sought to curb gun violence and minimize the chance of a mass shooting happening after a gunman opened fire at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, killing 17 students and staff members.

The measure was approved by voters in November by a wide margin. But opponents argued the measure violated constitutional rights of young adults and unfairly punished law-abiding gun owners.

The National Rifle Association with other gun rights advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the measure. Meanwhile, some Washington sheriffs simply say parts of the law are unenforceable or want to wait until a decision plays out in federal court.

The sheriffs who say they won’t enforce the measure were mainly in rural, conservative areas, according to the Associated Press. They include Grant, Lincoln, Okanogan, Cowlitz, Douglas, Benton, Pacific, Stevens, Yakima, Wahkiakum, Mason and Klickitat counties — along with the police chief of the small town of Republic.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson was adamant the law was constitutional and vowed to rebuke any opposition to the gun control law.

“I will defend Initiative 1639 against any legal challenge,” Ferguson said in the open letter in February.

Ferguson went on to say that sheriffs could face civil liability if a shooting was to occur.

“In the event a police chief or sheriff refuses to perform the background check required by Initiative 1639, they could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm,” he said.