The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office will not seek out violators to Washington’s recently passed Initiative 1639, which is one of the toughest gun laws on the books across the country.
However, Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza stressed that doesn’t mean the sheriff’s office wouldn’t enforce the law. If a case were to come up where a portion of I-1639 were violated, Snaza said the office would fully investigate the crime.
“This law does nothing to prevent criminals from doing what they want to do,” Snaza said Friday. “This law is more like going after people who are gun owners who are not criminals and telling them what the state wants them to do. And that’s unfortunate.”
I-1639 raises the purchase age of semi-automatic rifles to 21, incentivizes safe storage, and creates enhanced background checks for rifles that are line with the checks for handguns in the state. The initiative also authorizes the state to require gun sellers to add $25 to sales of semi-automatic rifles to pay for new regulations.
Snaza said he had privacy concerns with going into a person’s home to check for secured firearms and worried about cost burdens associated with background checks. But raising the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles is the portion of the initiative that Snaza said he held the biggest issue.
“How is that fair to that young woman or young man who went to Afghanistan to fight for you and I to have this conversation today for freedom and for our democracy and then to say when you come home you can’t own a firearm until you’re 21?” Snaza said.
Washington state passed I-1639 with 59.4 percent of the vote, although the majority of counties in favor were clustered around the Puget Sound area. Lewis County overwhelmingly rejected the measure, with 70.2 percent of voters opposed to it.
The measure has already faced legal challenges. The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit earlier this month, claiming the initiative unconstitutionally hinders First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and violates the commerce clause by banning rifle sales to non-residents.
Lewis County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the first law enforcement agency to speak out after I-1639 was passed. Earlier this month Loren Culp, the police chief from the Eastern Washington city of Republic, said he would protect his citizens’ right to bear arms, proposing the city become a “sanctuary city” for the Second Amendment.
Snaza said he cautioned Culp against that move at a Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs conference, saying law enforcement should let the lawsuits play out before parts of the initiative take effect in July.
“The legislature has some work ahead of them, and hopefully we can get common ground on this,” Snaza said.