OLYMPIA – Gun rights activists plan to bring their firearms to the Capitol next month to engage in civil disobedience by violating the new background check law that they despise.
But there may be a flaw in the plan. What they say they’re going to do – “openly exchange guns” by handing them to someone else – isn’t against Initiative 594, according to Bob Calkins, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which provides law enforcement on the Capitol grounds. They won’t be arrested or cited for doing that.
The “I Will Not Comply” rally is being promoted on Facebook by Gavin Seim, a conservative activist who ran for Congress in Central Washington’s 4th District, finishing eighth in the 12-person primary. In a video made before the election, Seim denounced I-594 as the most “corrupt, tyrannical, lawless and draconian gun restriction” ever seen. He says on video and in information for the rally that he “will not lick the boots of tyrants” by complying with it.
I-594 extends the background check requirements the federal government requires for dealer sales to most private firearms sales and transfers. It passed by 59 percent and takes effect Dec. 4. Opponents claimed the law is so restrictive that “transfers” would include lending a gun to a friend or relative while hunting or target shooting, making those actions illegal unless the lender and the borrower went through a background check. Supporters said that’s not what “transfers” means in the law, and they don’t require checks.
Starting at 11 a.m. Dec. 13, the event on the lawn of the Capitol campus will feature a series of speakers opposing I-594. “We will hold our first rally at the capital, openly exchange guns, unveil and plan to break apart the entire legislation and violate I-594 in every possible way,” the notice for the demonstration says.
No one will be arrested for exchanging guns, said Calkins, the patrol spokesman.
“We don’t see handing a weapon to someone else as a violation of the law,” Calkins said. “We don’t see that as a transfer.”
He likened it to the difference between loaning your car to a friend for the afternoon and signing the papers over to him. The latter is a transfer, the former is not, Calkins said.
Washington is an “open carry” state, which means the protesters are free to bring their firearms to the rally as long as they are in plain sight, or concealed if they have a permit, Calkins said.
“The Capitol is a good place for people to come and express their political opinions,” he said. “We would, of course, advise good firearms safety.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.