The recent signing of a bill that banned the sale of “assault weapons” drew an immediate challenge in federal court, with top law enforcement officials in Clark County among those named as targets for the lawsuit.
On April 25, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1240. The bill prohibits “the manufacture, importation, distribution, selling, and offering for sale of assault weapons,” according to the bill’s title.
The bill has a lengthy description of what qualifies as an “assault weapon,” which includes a list of dozens of specific models, one of which is the Colt AR-15.
Prior to signing the bill, Inslee said assault weapons “have no reason other than mass murder” and said they are “weapons of war.”
“AR-15s should not be idolized,” Inslee said. “They should be prohibited.”
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson first proposed the ban seven years ago following the 2016 mass shooting in Mukilteo, in which the perpetrator used an AR-15-style rifle to kill three and injure another.
Ferguson recounted his promise to Paul Kramer, the father of Will Kramer, who was injured in the shooting, that he would introduce the bill as agency-supported legislation until it passed.
“To be honest, there were times when I thought maybe it’s just not going to happen,” Ferguson said.
He thanked grassroot efforts for getting the legislation approved the seventh time around.
All legislators representing North Clark County voted against HB 1240.
Minutes after the bill was signed, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) announced its lawsuit. It challenges the bill’s legality based on the Second and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The SAF is joined by the Firearms Policy Coalition and three individuals, one of which, Lawrence Hartford, is referenced in the Hartford v. Ferguson case name. Sporting Systems, a Vancouver-based gun store, is also named as a plaintiff.
The bill criminalizes “a common and important means of self-defense,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said in the foundation’s announcement.
“The state has put politics ahead of constitutional rights and is penalizing law-abiding citizens while this legislation does nothing to arrest and prosecute criminals who misuse firearms in defiance of all existing gun control laws,” Gottleib stated in the announcement. “It is absurd.”
The lawsuit names Ferguson as a defendant, alongside Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste and the sheriffs and prosecuting attorneys for Kitsap, Kittitas and Snohomish counties. It also names Clark County Sheriff John Horch and prosecutor Tony Golik.
Horch said being named in the lawsuit was a surprise.
“I didn’t know I was going to (be) named and don’t know why I was,” Horch stated in an email.
The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the named defendants from enforcing the ban enacted in HB 1240.
SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut called the bill an example of “legislative demagoguery.”
“The hysteria manufactured by the authors and supporters of this legislation is rivaled only by the false characterization of the banned firearms as ‘weapons of war,’” Kraut stated in the foundation’s announcement.
He took issue with the characterization of the listed firearms as “assault weapons,” saying they are “in all respects, ordinary semi automatic rifles.”
“(T)heir distinguishing features make them safer and easier to use, but even if they are considered as a separate group of ‘assault weapons,’ they cannot be banned because they are not dangerous and unusual,” Kraut said.
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