Legal Challenges to Washington State’s I-1639 Will Probably Fail
Last month we wrote about Washington’s Initiative 1639, a sweeping gun control measure that raised age limits for semi-auto rifle purchases, mandated extra background checks for semi-auto rifles, increased penalties for improper storage of guns that were later used by unauthorized people, and more. About 60 percent of Washington voters approved of the initiative, a fairly substantive majority.
Almost as soon as the ink on the ballots was dry, the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Washington District Court targeting a few parts of the law: the age limits and the nonresident purchase ban. Their plaintiffs are several people under 21 who want to purchase rifles and some FFLs who want to sell rifles.
Unfortunately, both prongs of their challenge are likely to fail.
The Washington Attorney General – who is named as the defendant in the suit, which you can read here – will simply point out the following (keep in mind this is what the government will say, which is not reflective of the author’s opinion):
- District of Columbia v. Heller says “the Second Amendment right is not unlimited” and such laws are constitutional. “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on… laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
- Federal law already prohibits handgun sales to out-of-state residents and impose a minimum age limit on handgun sales, and these provisions have been upheld in court. This initiative simply moves semi-auto rifles into the same category as handguns when it comes to purchase restrictions.
- Other states have increased age limits for handgun possession beyond the federal level, and their laws have also been upheld (see the previous link).
- Far from being a complete ban on firearm possession or purchase by those under 21, the law allows those over 18 but under 21 to buy bolt, pump, slide, lever, and single shot rifles and shotguns. These, they will argue, are more than sufficient to allow people in that age range to exercise their Second Amendment rights and engage in target shooting and retain the right to self defense.
I don’t see any court, whether at the district, appellate, or Supreme Court level, that is going to overturn these parts of I1639, let alone the entire law as the suit requests. Sorry, WA residents, but I1639 is here to stay.
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