Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones has joined a handful of other law enforcement officials in saying he will not enforce Washington’s new gun laws.
County sheriffs in Benton, Klickitat, Stevens and Pacific counties, as well as the police chief in Republic, have also said they will not enforce I-1639, approved by state voters in November.
Jones said a popular vote cannot overrule constitutional rights.
“I’ve always thought there was a constitutional issue with this measure,” Jones said. “So, until the constitutional validity is worked out in court I have taken the stance not to enforce this initiative.”
Jones said residents of Grant County, where almost 68 percent voted against I-1639, have been very supportive of his position.
“They have been very vocal about this measure and how they believe it is unconstitutional and they were glad to see that there were lawsuits filed regarding the unconstitutionality,” Jones said. “So again, that’s why I made that decision to take a non-enforcement approach on this until the validity, constitutionally, is worked out.”
I-1639 requires background checks for purchases of semi-automatic rifles, and raises the legal age to purchase one from 18 to 21. It also imposes strict rules for storage of guns.
Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett and Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris, while questioning the constitutionality of I-1639, stopped short last week of saying they would not enforce it.
“As the Sheriff of Douglas County, my highest priority is protecting our community and safeguarding the rights of all residents I was elected to represent,” Morris said in a written statement. “The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has a proud tradition of common sense policing, a perspective we will continue to apply in our operations as it relates to I-1639.”
Okanogan County Sheriff Anthony Hawley, also stopped short of saying his deputies would not enforce the new law. In a statement Monday, Hawley the initiative “appears to be unenforceable due to the unclear language and lacking appropriate definitions.”
But he said, after talking with the county prosecutor, he will tell his deputies to “conduct appropriate investigations and document their findings.”