The Battle Ground City Council heard concerns over the implementation of gun control-focused Initiative 1639 as part of an ongoing push to have local governments in Clark County declare themselves sanctuaries of the Second Amendment, as proponents have called it.
More than a dozen individuals testified during council’s March 4 meeting. All who spoke did so with opposition to the initiative which changes state law regarding sale and ownership of semiautomatic rifles. The initiative passed with close to 60 percent approval in November.
Orchestrated in part by right-wing activist group Patriot Prayer, the testimony followed gun rights rallies in Woodland and Washougal and an appearance at a Washougal City Council meeting on Feb. 25. Following that meeting, Washougal’s city attorney issued an opinion that generally stated that until the change in law through I-1639 was found unconstitutional, not enforcing the law would be a violation of the oaths of office for city government and law enforcement.
Currently, the initiative is being challenged in the courts by the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation. The lawsuit specifically names Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins as a defendant in his capacity as sheriff, citing a statement on his office’s Facebook page that they would enforce the initiative.
Eric Hargrave, a Washougal resident and owner of gun store Limitless America, presented a document to the council drafted by himself and other Republicans in his legislative district. The resolution affirmed a commitment to the right to keep and bear arms in both the U.S. and state constitutions and stated that the council would not spend resources on “any act, order, rule, law or regulation repugnant to the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms exercised by law-abiding citizens.”
Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson also spoke, calling for a workshop in the future regarding a resolution. He took specific issue with I-1639’s language on medical history information used to determine if someone was eligible to purchase a semiautomatic rifle which he said would force people to “sign away (their) rights to medical privacy.”
Gibson said that when most of the law goes into effect July 1, “they are going to go after the veterans who have PTSD.”
Battle Ground resident Marilyn Young provided a brief assessment on her interpretation of I-1639, focusing specifically on the raising of the legal age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. That part of the law is currently in place.
“I ask you to refrain from acting upon the newly-enacted gun law until such time as the courts rule upon the challenge,” Young said.
Others who testified included Battle Ground and Clark County residents, as well as two individuals from a group called Portland Liberation.
As to city council’s reaction to the testimony — there wasn’t too much, if any. Following the meeting, Battle Ground Police Chief Bob Richardson said he hadn’t been given any direction from the city manager regarding I-1639 enforcement, adding that his department would be enforcing any state or local law unless it was ruled unconstitutional.
“We don’t get to pick and choose what that is,” Richardson remarked. “My oath and my obligation is to enforce the law regardless what anybody’s personal views are.”
Along with gathering every Sunday in March at Kiwanis Park in Battle Ground, Patriot Prayer has scheduled more appearances in North County this week, with social media events created for La Center City Council Wednesday and Ridgefield City Council Thursday.