Attorney General Ferguson sends information about Initiative 1639 to all sheriffs in Washington state

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Attorney General Bob Ferguson today released a “Frequently Asked Questions” document on Initiative 1639, directing the document to sheriffs across the state and releasing it to the general public online.

The FAQ is available here.

In his letter to sheriffs, Ferguson writes: “Recent public statements from your colleagues regarding the refusal to enforce Initiative 1639, approved by nearly 60% of Washington voters last November, suggest widespread misunderstanding regarding the requirements and status of the new law.”

Ferguson’s letter makes several key points, including:
  • Individuals age 18 to 21 who own or possess a semiautomatic rifle prior to July 1 do not face criminal liability for owning those weapons. The initiative does say those individuals may only carry those weapons: At their businesses, homes, or property; while engaging in lawful outdoor recreation activities, such as hunting; or while target shooting at an authorized range.
  • Firearms are not required to be stored in any particular place or any particular way.
  • Law enforcement is not required to enter homes to investigate whether firearms are safely and securely stored. There are strict constitutional limits on when law enforcement can enter your home.
  • If a gun owner has his or her weapon stolen, the initiative does not create criminal liability, provided the theft is reported to law enforcement, regardless of how the weapon is stored.
  • No court has found that I-1639 violates the Second Amendment.

As Ferguson wrote in his open letter to law enforcement, starting in July, the initiative does require local law enforcement to perform enhanced background checks on sales and transfers of semiautomatic rifles. These checks are more intensive than currently required for sales and transfers of these weapons, and identical to what has been required for pistol purchases for many years.



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