Cowlitz County is now one of many counties in Washington with government or law enforcement officials coming out against the voter-approved gun control Initiative 1639.

The Cowlitz County Commissioners approved a resolution Jan. 29 that challenged the Constitutional nature of the initiative that passed by 59.4 percent statewide in November. In Cowlitz County voters were in opposition to the initiative, voting against it by more than 61 percent. It was one of 25 of Washington’s 39 counties to have a majority opposed.

The initiative featured several components aimed at gun control: raising the age from 18 to 21 for semi-automatic rifle sales, requiring background checks for rifles similar to those already on the books for handguns, creating new standards for storage as well as allowing for the state to add $25 to semi-automatic rifle sales to pay for the increased enforcement of the bill.

The commissioners’ resolution opposed I-1639 “or the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the lawful rights of its residents to Keep and Bear Arms.” The document specifically cited the economic hardship imposed on local firearm dealerships as a result of the new law, including cost increases and the potential for job and sales tax loss under new restrictions, as well as the “layer of burdensome, troublesome and unlawful governmental regulation” the initiative will impose.

Though several sheriffs of Washington counties have stated their intent not to enforce the initiative, including Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman, Cowlitz’s board of commissioners was one of two to pass resolutions in opposition of 1639 last week. The Tri-City Herald reported that Franklin County Commissioners passed their own ordinance the same day as Cowlitz.

The only portion of 1639 in effect right now is the required age of someone buying a semi-automatic rifle, rising from 18 to 21; the other pieces of the initiative are set to take effect July 1. 

As to the state requiring enforcement of the initiative, a spokesperson for Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office was “actively monitoring developments as they occur. Ferguson’s policy director Kate Kelly wrote that “our office is confident that the law is constitutional, and we intend to defend it in court.”

Ferguson had been a supporter of the initiative during the election. Following voter approval the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit against Washington and Ferguson against the law. 

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