State Watch

At least 13 county sheriffs in Washington refuse to enforce new gun law

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Semiautomatic rifles are displayed for sale in this Jan. 1, 2019, file photo.

Sheriffs in at least 13 counties in Washington are reportedly refusing to enforce a stricter gun law approved by voters in November.

The new law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle and imposes a mandatory 10-day waiting period for purchases, in addition to requiring more-thorough background checks for anyone attempting to purchase those particular firearms, according a Seattle Times article published Sunday.

{mosads}The law was approved by almost 60 percent of voters, but sheriffs in the 13 mostly rural counties that did not have a majority supporting the legislation say they won’t enforce the statute.

“My job as a sheriff is to throw bad guys in jail, but it’s also to protect the constitutional rights of citizens of our county,” Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, who said he will not be enforcing that law, told The Seattle Times. “I follow the rule of law when I believe it’s constitutional.”

Sheriffs in the following counties told the newspaper they won’t enforce the new law: Adams, Benton, Ferry, Franklin, Grant, Grays Harbor, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Stevens and Yakima.

The counties are primarily in the south, central and eastern part of the state, with two on the Pacific coast.

King County, which is home to Seattle, has almost three times the amount of voters as the 13 counties combined. Residents in King County supported the new measure with 76 percent of the vote.

“I took an oath to uphold the law,” King County Sheiff Mitzi Johanknecht told The Seattle Times. “As law enforcement leaders, we defy that oath and betray the public trust if we pick and choose which laws we will uphold.”

The higher age limit regulation is the only portion of the new law that has gone into effect. The other provisions take effect in July.

The National Rifle Association has filed a lawsuit opposing the measure in federal court, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington, told the newspaper it is noteworthy that sheriffs are coming out against enforcement.

“What’s atypical about this situation is they’re not saying, ‘Hey, we have limited resources so we’re going to figure out how to best use them,’” Fan said. “They’re saying, ‘We don’t agree with the people and so even though we are the people’s public servants we’re not going to enforce that law.’”


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