At least 20 county sheriffs in Washington state – more than half of the state’s total – are now publicly refusing to police new gun laws. Several county governments have also passed local resolutions officially opposing enforcement of the laws.
The moves may pose a significant threat to Washington’s ambitious agenda on firearms reform, and some activists say it is beginning to resemble a full-scale “constitutionalist” revolt against gun control.
A growing number of sheriffs, almost all in rural counties, have publicly stated that they will not, or believe they cannot, enforce the provisions of I1639, a ballot measure passed by popular vote last November which aims to restrict access to and use of assault weapons.
Their positions – outlined in written statements, local media reports, and Facebook posts – occupy varying points on a spectrum of resistance.
A few, like Klickitat county sheriff Bob Songer, say that they would not only not enforce the laws, but would consider preventing other agencies from doing so in their counties.
Others, like Sheriff Brad Thurman in Cowlitz county, have cited an ongoing legal challenge from the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment foundation as evidence that the laws may not be constitutional, and are proposing to hold off enforcement until that case is resolved.
Another group, including Spokane county sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, have argued that the law as it stands is so vague that there is “nothing to enforce”.
But all of these positions add up to a refusal to enforce I1639 in the form in which it was passed by Washington voters.
Only four county sheriffs so far have publicly committed to enforcing the laws.