A bill introduced in the Washington House of Representatives last week would repeal the controversial Initiative 1639, which introduced sweeping gun control measures to Washington law books.
House Bill 2103, co-sponsored by a contingent of mostly Republican representatives, failed to get a hearing by the Feb. 22 deadline, but will be brought up again at the following session.
“I think … it’s going to be a message bill, because we ended up dropping it late in the cycle,” said Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
Walsh and Brian Blake, D-Longview, both of the 19th district, said the bill would essentially roll back gun laws to how they existed before I-1639 was passed by 60 percent of state voters.
I-1639 raises the legal age of owning a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 and requires safe storage techniques — with possible gross misdemeanor or felony consequences for violators, under certain circumstances.
Supporters have lauded the measure as a means to reduce gun violence and enhance school security.
HB 2103 reads in part: “Gun violence is far too common in Washington state and across the country, particularly gun violence involving victims who are law-abiding citizens who, if they had been armed, could have stopped the violence quickly without excessive loss of life or injury to other citizens.”
The bill goes on to blame “burdensome firearms regulations” for making citizens more vulnerable to gun violence.
Walsh said he’s introduced several bills that roll back specific elements of I-1639 that he’s found particularly problematic in a sort of “piecemeal” approach.
“My original though was that was the way to go, rather than just trying to overturn the entire thing — strike the pieces of it that were particularly problematic either constitutionally or otherwise,” said Walsh.
Of the about six bills introduced that took this approach, Walsh said only one got a hearing. He likened this proposed bill to a “blunt instrument,” and the previous bills as a “scalpel.”
Walsh and Blake predicted that the bill wouldn’t get a hearing by the cutoff date for policy bills, with Walsh saying that it will come up again at the next session. He added that he doubted Gov. Jay Inslee would sign it if it were to make it to his desk. Instead, he said he hoped it would grab the attention of public interest.
“Some of this, both my piecemeal bills and this broader bill, are sort of setting up a little bit of the discussion for when the ball comes back to the legislature to fix the problem,” he said, saying that he felt the state’s court will identify elements of I-1639 that need to be changed before there would be any legislative action.
At least 13 Washington sheriff’s offices have said they won’t enforce I-1639, with a common thread of their argument saying it violates the Second Amendment.
Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza has said that his office will enforce the law, but will not actively seek violators.