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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stevens County sheriff vows to ignore voter-approved Initiative 1639

Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke will not enforce Washington state Initiative 1639. In this photo from July, he is speaking during a candidate forum in Colville. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke said Friday that he will not enforce Initiative 1639, which brings sweeping changes for gun purchases, storage and background checks.

“This law is highly debated and is being contested on multiple fronts,” Manke wrote in a message posted to Facebook. “It will be the position of the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office that we will not take enforcement action (make custodial arrests or issue citations) on alleged violations of this law unless imminent danger exists to the public.”

Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris also issued a statement Friday saying he intends to keep his department focused on “addressing the opioid epidemic, mental health concerns, and violent crimes, all of which are serious concerns for our strong community.”

Morris did not directly address whether he would follow the new rules from I-1639 that mostly take effect on July 1.

“The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has a proud tradition of common sense policing, a perspective we will continue to apply in our operations as it relates to I-1639,” Morris wrote.

Both sheriffs issued statements Friday after Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he would refuse to follow other “grandstanding” sheriffs who publicly refuse to uphold the law that was passed by 59 percent of Washington voters.

On Friday, Knezovich said he was approached by American Patriots the III% leader John Valle, who was seeking the sheriff to write a letter saying he would not enforce I-1639.

The new law on Jan. 1 raised the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. A series of changes is scheduled to take effect July 1, including a new 10-day waiting period on those same purchases.

The law also will require gun buyers to show they have completed a safety course prior to the purchase of a semi-automatic assault rifle. Gun owners also will face a Class C felony if they leave firearms in a place where a “prohibited person could potentially gain access to the firearm.”

But in his statement saying he would not follow the new law, Manke, in Colville, wrote: “I join the 73% of Stevens County voters who voted against this initiative.”