State AG issues follow-up to sheriffs not enforcing I-1639

In this Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — After taking a hard stance on sheriffs refusing to enforce the recently-passed gun measure I-1639, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson took a different tact in a new letter.

RELATED: State AG issues warning to sheriffs not enforcing I-1639

In mid-February, Ferguson issued a letter to officials who publicly stated they wouldn’t enforce I-1639, warning of possibly legal consequences. A new letter sent out Monday, though, was far more carrot than stick, suggesting that refusal to enforce it was due to a lack of understanding of the measure, rather than disregard for the law.

“Recent public statements from your colleagues regarding the refusal to enforce Initiative 1639, approved by nearly 60 percent of Washington voters last November, suggest widespread misunderstanding regarding the requirements and status of the new law,” it reads.

In this latest letter, Ferguson focused on what he views as misconceptions related to I-1639. Concerns from sheriffs in the past have included a fear they would have to “go door to door,” intrude in private homes, and go after people whose guns aren’t stored securely.

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Looking to debunk those claims, Ferguson spoke plainly.

A few points are especially important to highlight. Initiative 1639:

•    Does not require that a firearm be stored in a particular place or in a particular way;
•    Does not require you to enter homes to investigate whether firearms are safely and securely
•    stored;
•    Does not create criminal liability for a stolen firearm, provided the firearm is reported stolen;
•    Does not prohibit a person between the ages of 18 and 21 from possessing a semiautomatic
•    assault rifle provided they have the weapon for defense of their home, business, or personal
•    property, or while hunting or at a shooting range;
•    Does require local law enforcement to perform enhanced background checks on all sales and
•    transfers of semiautomatic assault rifles regardless of your personal views on the initiative; and
•    Has not been found by any court to violate the Second Amendment.

Ferguson also pointed to a new FAQ page created by the Attorney General's office, designed to address common questions and concerns regarding I-1639.

“I hope this document is helpful to you and the Washingtonians you represent and serve,” he stated in closing.

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In its current form, I-1639 enacts waiting periods and background checks on the purchase of semi-automatic weapons, an increase to the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, and a class-C felony for any gun owner whose firearm is used by an unlicensed party provided the owner doesn’t report it as stolen.

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