NRA Files Lawsuit Challenging Legality of Washington Gun Control Measure

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 16, 2018Politics

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of a voter-approved initiative in Washington that would severely limit gun rights if enacted.

The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. District Court in the western district in Washington State and says the measure violates the commerce clause by banning sales of rifles to non-residents.

The measure is also unconstitutional because it impairs the rights guaranteed by the First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendments by preventing the sale of certain rifles to otherwise qualified adults under the age of 21, according to the groups.

“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

“I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense.”

NRA files lawsuit against gun control measure
People with firearms at the Washington state capitol during the ‘March for Our Rights’ pro-gun rally in Olympia, Washington, on April 21, 2018. (JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

A number of gun dealers and young adults joined in the lawsuit, as did the Second Amendment Foundation.

“We’re determined to fight this egregious measure because constitutionally-protected rights should never be subject to a popularity vote,” added Alan Gottlieb, the foundation’s executive vice president.

“The wealthy elitists behind I-1639 want to turn a right into a regulated privilege. This measure was only designed to have a chilling effect on the exercise of a constitutional right by honest citizens while having no impact at all on criminals, and we cannot let it go unchallenged.”

Ballot Initiative

The ballot initiative, I-1639 (pdf), or “Changes to Gun Ownership and Purchase Requirements Measure,” would implement restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms.

The restrictions include increasing the minimum age to buy semi-automatic assault rifles from 18 to 21 and opening people whose guns are taken by someone else and used in a crime to criminal charges.

The measure was backed by a number of wealthy donors, with nearly $5.5 million raised from the likes of Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, reported the Seattle Times. On the other side, opponents led by the NRA raised roughly $610,000 to try to fight the measure.

The initiative passed by a significant margin, with about 60 percent of voters approving it. But the average wasn’t that high in some places, with only 51 percent of voters in Spokane County approving it and 72 percent of voters in Stevens County rejecting it, reported KREM.

At least one police chief in the state has said he will not enforce the measure, calling it unconstitutional.

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