The Washington State Sheriffs Association last week issued a letter denouncing Gov. Jay Inslee's plan for gun control restrictions in the Evergreen State.
The association released the letter days after the governor's State of the State address. The association said Inslee's new restrictions would erode constitutionally protected rights without addressing the root causes of violent crime.
"We are particularly concerned with the proposed so-called 'assault weapons ban' and 'permit to purchase' laws," the association stated in its letter.
In the State of the State address in front of the Legislature, Inslee said gun violence is a significant driver of increased crime.
"This isn't a surprise considering the gun lobby has worked for decades against common sense gun safety measures," Inslee said. "Fortunately, in Washington state, voters and legislators have been willing to take on the gun lobby. We've enacted several measures to strengthen background checks and limits on the kinds of weaponry used in mass shootings."
Inslee then stated three ways Washington would act this year. He said people should be required to have safety training before they can purchase a gun.
"We expect that people have completed safety training in multiple parts of our lives," Inslee said. "We should expect that before someone buys a gun, they have some basic safety training. It has worked in other states. It's time to put it to work in Washington."
Inslee then said Washington should increase accountability of gun manufacturers and dealers and "give families and victims access to justice when those entities fail to do their duty."
He then listed his third focus — a ban of “military-style assault weapons” in Washington.
"These weapons are designed for the sole purpose of destroying lives — the lives of school children, law enforcement officers, concert-goers, nightclub patrons and people gathered in houses of worship," Inslee said. "We owe our children the assurance we're doing all we can to keep them safe. Let's pass all three bills and prove to them that the gun lobby doesn't make the rules in Washington state — we do."
The Washington State Sheriffs Association’s letter said sheriffs are responsible for two tasks.
"The first is to protect life and property by enforcing criminal laws," the letter read. "The second is to uphold and protect guaranteed rights. We take both responsibilities very seriously."
The association said more restrictions shift focus from offenders to law-abiding citizens, sending the wrong message and eroding constitutional rights upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
The association said the magazine ban the state passed had already been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and that mandated annual background checks to buy a firearm are also under challenge.
Currently, the Washington Supreme Court has upheld the high-capacity magazine ban and a federal judge has scheduled a trial in the legal challenge to Washington state's new ban on high-capacity magazines for late 2023.
The association said that the governor's proposed legislation is inconsistent with the Washington state Constitution and the federal Second Amendment.
"The new proposals to restrict gun ownership would further infringe on rights that have been clearly and repeatedly established," the letter reads.
The association said the state should focus more on dealing with offenders without weakening the rights of all citizens.
"The rise in violent crime that so concerns citizens has happened even as regulations and restrictions on firearm ownership have grown," the letter reads. "Of course, this is because the people who commit violent crimes simply don't concern themselves with obeying rules about guns. The people impacted by restrictions to constitutional rights are those who obey laws in the first place — the people who we know aren't the problem."
Toward the end of the letter, the association said it's committed to working with Inslee and legislators to strengthen the criminal justice system and reduce violent crime while safeguarding rights.