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News / Clark County News

Clark County Sheriff’s Office ‘will adhere to’ I-1639

Enforcement comes amid legal challenge to gun-control law

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: February 4, 2019, 4:40pm

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has announced that it will enforce a controversial gun-control measure handily passed by voters last November.

The announcement came Saturday morning in a brief statement posted to Facebook that noted that while Initiative 1639 was being challenged in court, the sheriff’s office intended to heed the new law for now.

“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office will adhere to the law as passed by a vote of the people unless a court rules that it is unconstitutional,” reads the statement. According to the statement, the sheriff’s office will evaluate the statutory requirements of I-1639 and “adopt policy consistent with state law and any subsequent judicial rulings.”

I-1639 was passed by Washington voters with 59 percent of the vote. The measure requires safe storage for firearms and increases the age limit to purchase a gun to 21. It also broadly redefines many guns as “semi-automatic assault” rifles while strengthening the background check required to purchase a firearm.

The measure was approved by voters in 14 of Washington’s 39 counties, including in Clark County, where it passed with 54 percent of the vote. Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins, a Republican, was also re-elected last November after facing no opponent.

The initiative has faced uncertainty and backlash while many of its provisions have yet to be implemented. The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the measure is unconstitutional.

Local law enforcement officials in Washington have also questioned the constitutionality of I-1639 and refused to enforce it. Among them is Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, who told the Yakima Herald-Republic last month that he won’t enforce the law out of concerns it will violate people’s rights while making “criminals out of our honest citizens.”

In Cowlitz County, Sheriff Brad Thurman said last week that he would hold off on deciding how to enforce I-1639, according to The Daily News in Longview. He cited how much of the initiative won’t go into effect until July 1 and that lawsuits and legislative changes could affect how it’s implemented, the paper reported. Last week, the paper reported that the Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing I-1639.

Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring did not respond to a request for comment on whether the council would pursue a similar resolution.

Columbian political reporter