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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Republic, Washington, considers becoming a ‘sanctuary city’ to protect gun rights

The Republic, Washington, City Council is mulling legislation to shield itself from state and national laws that limit Second Amendment gun rights, including the recently passed Initiative 1639.

Republic Mayor Elbert Koontz said on Monday the Republic City Council will begin discussing the idea of becoming a “sanctuary city.” The move has widespread support within the city, he said.

“Everybody in Republic seems to like it and has decided that it seems like a great thing,” Koontz said.

The idea was sparked by a message Republic police Chief Loren Culp posted last week to the Republic Police Department’s Facebook page.

Culp wrote in the Facebook post that the proposed ordinance would “prevent federal and state infringement on the right to keep and bear arms; nullifying all federal and state acts in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 1 Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution.”

Culp said he has seen a few counties in Oregon and Illinois that have passed similar ordinances, but he doesn’t know how likely such a measure is to pass in Republic.

Either way, Culp said, he’s instructing Republic police officers to not enforce I-1639 when it becomes law on Jan. 1.

“We will not have officers violate the rights of our citizens,” he said.

The proposed ordinance is partly in response to I-1639, which state voters approved earlier this month. I-1639 raises the age limit to buy some weapons from 18 to 21 and opens a gateway to prosecute people who sell guns to customers who can’t legally own them. It also requires guns to be safely stored at home.

One of the bigger issues that Culp has with the new law is his belief that it holds gun owners liable if the gun is stolen and used in a crime.

“That to me is turning a victim of a burglary into a criminal,” Culp said.

Koontz said city leaders are gathering information.

“I don’t expect a decision any time soon,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting City Council meeting.”

Republic, a city with a population slightly over 1,000, is in Ferry County in northeastern Washington.

It has drawn national attention from people like singer and guitarist Ted Nugent, also an advocate for Second Amendment rights. Nugent shared the post on his Facebook page on Thursday, drawing more than 10,000 responses on the social media network.

In his Facebook post, Nugent wrote, “So many oath violating bureaucrats have lost their souls. Young Americans willing to fight & die for Constitutional freedoms certainly have the right to those freedoms! Stand!!”

Koontz said the city is getting a call every 15 minutes about the initiative.

“People from all over the state calling and texting,” Koontz said.

As far as repercussions, Koontz said the City Council is gathering information on what it could expect from state or federal blow back.

“What could they do?” Koontz said.

Republic police officers can choose to not enforce the law, but it makes the city more liable for lawsuits, said Spokane City Councilman Breean Beggs, who’s also a former staff attorney at the Center for Justice civil rights firm in the Inland Northwest. The state might also react with penalties, he said.

“The state could pass a law that says they’ll reduce state allocation of money if the law isn’t enforced. That’s typically their reaction when small jurisdictions try to subvert their laws,” Beggs said.

Dan Jackson, communications consultant for the Washington state attorney general, wrote in a statement that “We will review the city’s ordinance if it passes.”