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News / Clark County News

Clark County sheriff, prosecutor named in suit over Washington gun law

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 25, 2023, 5:44pm

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Second Amendment Foundation and others, including Vancouver-based gun store Sporting Systems, in response to the Legislature’s passage of a semi-automatic weapons ban names Clark County Sheriff John Horch and Prosecutor Tony Golik as two of several defendants.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, also lists the Firearms Policy Coalition and private citizens Brett Bass, Douglas Mitchell and Lawrence Hartford as plaintiffs. All are represented by Seattle attorney Joel Ard.

While the suit doesn’t state why Horch and Golik, as well as several other county sheriffs and prosecutors, were named as defendants, it states, “As sheriff, Horch is responsible for arresting and imprisoning ‘all persons guilty of public offenses’ in Clark County, including individuals who violate the challenged ban.”

It also claims, “Golik is responsible for ‘prosecuting all criminal and civil actions,’ including for violations of the challenged ban.”

Washington gun law

Clark County Sheriff John Horch talks with the media after taking the oath of office at the Clark County Public Service Center on Thursday morning, Dec. 22, 2022.Clark County sheriff, prosecutor named in suit over Washington gun law
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Second Amendment Foundation and others, including Vancouver-based gun store Sporting Systems, in response to the Legislature’s passage of…
Sara Jones, right, with "We the People Against Communism," yells at guests lining up to enter the Capitol while she protests ahead of the signing of firearms regulation bills by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Olympia, Wash.New Washington gun law already faces federal court challenge
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a trio of bills meant to address gun violence Tuesday, one banning the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles,…

The news seemed to come as a surprise to the sheriff’s office. Spokesman Sgt. Chris Skidmore said the department wasn’t initially aware Horch had been named in the suit. He also said they weren’t aware of any specific actions taken by the department that would put it in legal crosshairs.

Golik could not immediately be reached for comment.

Along with Golik and Horch, the suit names Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson; State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste; Kitsap County Sheriff John Gese and Prosecutor Chad M. Enright; Kittitas County Sheriff Clayton Myers and Prosecutor Greg Zempel; and Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortnoy and Prosecutor Jason Cummings as defendants.

In a press release Tuesday, Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the state has criminalized a common and important means of self-defense, the modern semi-automatic rifle.

“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. It is absurd,” Gottlieb said.

This is the third lawsuit filed by the foundation over recent legislation. The two earlier suits challenge the state’s high-capacity magazine ban and the ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles to young adults.

Sporting Systems owner Daniel Mitchell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

On March 9, Mitchell posted a lengthy comment about the then-proposed weapons ban to his store’s Facebook page. Mitchell wrote that both the U.S. and Washington constitutions have long upheld citizens’ ability to “lawfully possess, purchase, manufacture and use firearms for all lawful purposes,” adding “these constitutional guardrails have been willfully ignored by this Legislature, in the name of virtue signaling and fundraising.”

Mitchell, who is also the president and co-founder of the Washington Civil Rights Association, said similar bans attempted in other states are failing in every District Court across the country.

“We look forward to challenging this bill in the federal court, restoring the freedom of law-abiding Washingtonians, and presenting the state of Washington with our legal bills,” Mitchell wrote.

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