Military and Police

Another Top Cop Bristles at State’s New Anti-Gun Law

I recently wrote about Police Chief Loren Culp, who has introduced legislation in Republic, Washington to make it a Sanctuary City. But rather than protecting criminal illegal aliens from ICE, he’s taking his oath of office seriously and safeguarding his citizens’ Second Amendment rights from those who would infringe on them. He acted in response to the anti-gun state initiative I-1639, which voters passed in November. Now, the chief is no longer alone in his public stance.

Lewis County Sheriff Robert R. Snaza said his office “will not actively seek out violations” of the new law. As I mentioned above, the voters did pass the initiative. However, the state administration responsible for assuring initiative sponsors adhere to legal requirements allowed this initiative to break a bunch of rules necessary to qualify for the ballot. Nevertheless, there it was on the ballot. And, if I hadn’t known better, just reading it as disseminated, I might have voted for it, too.

How did the initiative violate the qualification rules? Let’s start with the ballot title. According to the initiative rules, and commonsense, the let’s-sue-Trump-happy Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, is supposed to choose a “neutral and fair” ballot title.

Knowing how opponents feel, judge for yourself how objectively fair and neutral this title is: AN ACT Relating to increasing public safety by implementing firearm safety measures, including requiring enhanced background checks, waiting periods, and increased age requirements for semiautomatic assault rifles and secure gun storage for all firearms.

This blatantly biased title makes all sorts of partisan assumptions about the effect of the law. In fact, not knowing anything about guns, you’d be an idiot not to vote for it. And that’s exactly what the proponents wanted. Will it increase public safety? The other side believes it will do the opposite. There’s much more evidence supporting the opponents of I-1639 than its supporters. Just read John Lott’s lucid and eye-opening More Guns, Less Crime.

Now, before I continue, while everyone is familiar with the language in the Second Amendment, few, even Washingtonians, know the Constitution of the State of Washington’s language on gun rights. It’s even more explicit than the Second Amendment and appears in Article 1:

SECTION 24, RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

Impaired. As you read this, forget about how you feel about the issue. Ask yourself, objectively, if you think this law, even only based on the limited information herein, impairs a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. Yeah, understanding the definition of impair, I think so, too.

Here’s another example: I-1639, which is only supposed to contain one subject, contained at least 17. This dilution makes it hard to interpret the initiative’s effects on the people. Of course, obfuscation is one of the left’s skills and was I-1639 sponsors’ obvious intentions. They weaponized the concepts of broad, vague, and omission.

With state initiatives, the intent is supposed to be clear. People should be easily able to answer what action is allowed or prohibited following passage and implementation. This mucky law is nowhere near easy to interpret, comply with, or in Chief Culp and Sheriff Snaza’s case, enforce.

For example, one subject requires gun owners properly secure their firearm without defining what properly secure objectively looks like. If your gun is stolen, you can be criminally charged if you do not report it within five days.

As a copper for a long time, I can tell you not everyone knows what was taken in a burglary…within five days. I’ve had people call 9-1-1 months later to report a burglary or theft of an item they didn’t even know occurred because they hadn’t checked that closet, basement, attic, or whatever.

I just went on a longer than five-day vacation. What if one of my firearms had been stolen while we were away? Will people hesitate to report the theft at all, if that five-day window closes? Because of another stupid state law (I-594, 2014), as I understand it, I can’t even give my guns to someone to keep safe for me while I’m away. How moronic is that? How safe does that make us?

In fairness, the new law explicitly allows for prosecutorial discretion. But if you’re unfortunate enough to live in a jurisdiction, such as Seattle and King County, with social justice warriors for prosecutors, how do you think gun owners will fare if charged with a gun-related misdemeanor or felony?

And there are so many other subjects the law addresses with similar ambiguity. With this flawed initiative, you can’t even list and order in your head the myriad issues it addresses, never mind easily convey them to others.

For example, when supporters crafted the seatbelt law initiative, people knew if the initiative passed, the law would say they had to buckle up; if it didn’t pass, they didn’t have to. Simple. One issue. That’s not even close to the case with I-1639.

In fact, during the run-up to the election, The Olympian Editorial Board, that didn’t oppose the content of the imitative but the procedural flaws in it, published an editorial titled, “I-1639 petition flawed: can anyone fix it?”

In it, the board highlights several flaws, including the process for repairing those flaws. Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman said state law won’t allow her to reject the initiative or fix it based on any of the flaws listed. She said only a few circumstances allow her to enforce the rules (yeah, my head hurt with that one, too). But the Washington State Supreme Court says it can’t rule on the initiative because only the secretary of state had standing to bring a suit. There’s some brilliant government, right there.

Knowing all this, as I’m sure Sheriff Snaza does, it’s no wonder he or any sheriff or police chief would feel uncomfortable enforcing this flawed law, even if they supported it. Oh, and then there’s that pesky violating the state and federal constitutions. To descend into cliché mode: garbage in, garbage out. If the I-1639 petition was so flawed, how could the resultant law not be?

The new law seizes a state and federal constitutional right from 18 to 20-year-olds that other Americans over that age still possess. The legislation also establishes gun security rules that render weapons virtually useless for home defense, and make gun owners responsible for other people’s crimes.

After the law goes into effect, should someone steal your gun, and the state determines you did not secure it properly or didn’t report it quickly enough, the law could hold you accountable for its theft and for any subsequent crime someone commits with the firearm. And, since the gun was stolen, I guess the state could use that alone as prima facia evidence you didn’t secure it “properly,” couldn’t they?

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office posted this on Facebook: We have received a lot of inquiries after the passing of I-1639. Sheriff Snaza and his office are supporters of the U.S. Constitution, to include the Second Amendment. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office supports responsible firearms ownership. We as an office have put on free public firearms safety training, as well as provided public talks on the use of force and firearms ownership. We are aware there have been legal challenges to I-1639 and will wait for the courts to rule on their constitutionality. As with previous firearm initiatives, such as I-594, we will address potential criminal violations as they arise through the course of an investigation but will not actively seek out violations.

Thank you, Sheriff Snaza for inserting some common sense into this assault on our rights.

Mynorthwest.com asked former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) if the state could force this law on municipalities and counties that refuse to enforce it. McKenna said the power to enforce laws rests with local governments. He said it’s up to the voters to “decide whether they like it or not.” I assume he means by voting out a sheriff or a mayor who appoints a police chief with whom the voters are displeased.

I hope this trend, cops honoring their oaths to uphold and defend the state and federal constitutions, will grow as gun owners express their concerns. As The Olympian stated, “Though I-1639’s petition flaws do not look malicious, they raise enough questions that legislators should tighten the law in January. Voters need to know what they are signing. If the state’s petition-format rules are still valid in our online era, Wyman or another party needs authority to enforce them.” While I don’t agree with the lack of malice, I agree with the rest, which, again, is common sense.

The state tacitly or explicitly allowing supporters of initiatives it agrees with to misuse the initiative process to pass unconstitutional laws that impair and infringe on a person’s right to keep and bear arms cannot be allowed to stand.

The people can’t possibly make informed decisions if leftist politicians put their thumbs on the legislative scales. Let brave law enforcement leaders like Chief Loren Culp and Sheriff Robert Snaza know you support them. They understand political power originates with the state and federal constitutions and ultimately rests with the people.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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