Three more Eastern Washington sheriffs said Monday they will not enforce a state gun-control law that voters passed in November.
The sheriffs in Grant, Lincoln and Okanogan counties joined at least seven other county sheriffs who previously pledged to ignore Initiative 1639, which adds requirements on gun storage and background checks and raises the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic assault rifles.
The sheriffs said they’ll wait to see if the initiative survives legal challenges brought by the National Rifle Association and other groups.
“I am instructing my deputies not to enforce Initiative 1639 in Grant County while the constitutional validity remains in argument at the federal courts level,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said in a statement. “I swore an oath to defend our citizens and their constitutionally protected rights. I do not believe the popular vote overrules that.”
Jones said his county has “a very large voter base of citizens that are pro Second Amendment” and they “have a right to the have this challenge and appeals process play out before moving forward.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers used similar language in a Facebook post Monday, in which he called the law unenforceable.
“Lincoln County,” Magers wrote, “has a very large voter base of citizens that are pro Second Amendment with over 75% of our Lincoln County citizens voting against I-1639.”
Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said in a statement: “This initiative, as currently written, appears to be unenforceable due to the unclear language and lacking appropriate definitions. … The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate all cases thoroughly then document the findings of the their investigation.”
I-1639, which received nearly 60 percent of the statewide vote in November, was backed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. On Monday, Kristen Ellingboe, a spokeswoman for the group, told KHQ: “We’re disappointed to see sheriffs in general coming out in opposition to 1639.”
She said none of the sheriffs who have pledged to ignore the law have reached out to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
The sheriffs in Douglas, Benton, Pacific, Stevens, Yakima, Wahkiakum and Klickitat counties, as well as the police chief in Republic, have all made similar proclamations about the initiative. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has accused them of “grandstanding.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.