Court rules voter-approved Initiative 1639 is constitutional

Gun Rights

Demonstrators attend the right-wing ‘Liberty or Death – Rally Against Left Wing Violence’ outside Seattle City Hall on August 18, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Right wing groups including Patriot Prayer held a pro-gun rally to oppose Washington gun-control Initiative 1639 and were met with a large counterprotest. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that Initiative 1639 is constitutional and will remain law, announced state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday.

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The voter-approved initiative made several changes to Washington laws on semiautomatic rifle purchases, including strengthening background checks and requiring waiting periods for purchases of semiautomatic assault rifles.

Judge Ronald Leighton, a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, granted Ferguson’s motion for summary judgment ruling that I-1639 does not violate the Constitution. The law implemented the same background checked, waiting periods, and purchasing requirements that have been in place for handgun purchases.

According to a news release from Ferguson’s office, Judge Leighton decided a trial was unnecessary to resolve the case.

“An overwhelming majority of Washington voters approved Initiative 1639,” Ferguson said. “The NRA continues to challenge voter-approved, common sense gun reforms – and they continue to lose. I will not allow the NRA to undermine the will of the voters. If they choose to appeal, we will beat them again.”

The ruling is the result of a 2019 lawsuit with several plaintiffs, including the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation, who filed against Washington state over the initiative. Ferguson, as attorney general, defends voter initiatives against legal challenges.

In November 2018, I-1639 passed with nearly 60% of the popular vote. Several elected sheriffs and police chiefs questioned the law’s constitutionality and announced they would not enforce the initiative, including Loren Culp, the 2020 Republican candidate for governor.

The CEO of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Renée Hopkins, released the following statement, applauding the judge’s decision:

We are glad that Judge Leighton upheld these commonsense provisions that are designed to keep our schools and communities safe from gun violence. The gun lobby lost in the court of public opinion two years ago and this lawsuit was a last-ditch effort to block these lifesaving policies. We were always optimistic that Initiative 1639 would withstand these challenges as it has withstood the gun lobby’s previous legal attempts. We are grateful that the court made the right decision today.

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