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Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Sept. 26, 2023

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Federal judge upholds Washington’s voter-approved gun regulations


OLYMPIA — A federal judge Monday affirmed a set of firearms regulations approved by Washington voters in 2018, ruling against a legal challenge raised by gun-right advocates.

Initiative 1639 raised the legal purchase age of a semiautomatic rifle to 21 and put in place enhanced background checks for their purchase. It also prohibited the sale of such rifles to out-of-state residents.

Voters passed the measure with nearly 60% support, but gun-rights advocates have vehemently opposed it. Some sheriffs have said they wouldn’t enforce the law because they believed it was unconstitutional.

But U.S. District Court of Western Washington Judge Ronald Leighton cited current federal law barring handgun sales to people under 21, as well as state laws stretching back to the 19th century that have imposed age restrictions on purchases, The Seattle Times reported.

Because, for much of the nation’s history, people between the age of 18 and 20 were considered minors, several courts have ruled that age restrictions fall outside the Second Amendment’s protections, he wrote in the order.

“These authorities demonstrate that reasonable age restrictions on the sale, possession, or use of firearms have an established history in this country,” Leighton wrote.

The lawsuit by several plaintiffs, including two Washington firearms dealers, the National Rifle Association and Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation argued that I-1639 violates the Second Amendment, for prohibiting 18-to-20 year olds from buying semiautomatic rifles.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, said the ruling was not a surprise and the group plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In a statement, the head of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group that campaigned for the initiative, applauded Leighton for upholding “commonsense provisions.”