Following a successful meeting in Goldendale, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners held a second meeting on Initiative 1639 (I-1639) and the 2nd Amendment at the Pioneer Center in White Salmon.
The meeting carried the same rules as the previous one:
Each speaker would have a five-minute time limit.
The speakers must direct their comments to the board and not at other speakers.
The audience was not allowed to clap, boo, cheer, or make remarks to the speakers.
“We recognize that this is a very contentious issue, but we will treat each other respectfully,” stated Commissioner Dave Sauter at the outset of the meeting.
There were only a few instances of “disrespectful” behavior that re-quired Sauter to quiet down the crowd with his gavel.
Roughly 90 people attended the meeting; about 25-30 people signed up to speak, though several ultimately shortened their comments or yielded their time because their points had been made by previous speakers.
Support or disappointment in Sheriff Songer’s stance on I-1639, personal support or opposition to I-1639, the constitutionality of the law, and the rule of law all came up as common themes of each speaker. The commentary sparked some debate about whether the United States is a democracy or Constitu-tional republic, or both.
Additionally, many of the speakers called on the County Board to support Sheriff Songer’s stance, or to reprimand him for it. Still others called on the board to de-escalate the conversation around this subject and wait for the state courts to decide.
Sheriff Songer is one of 23 law enforcement officials in Washing-ton State that has expressed opposition to I-1639 and has claimed he will not enforce the law. Many of the speakers commented on how this stance could and has reflected badly on Klickitat County and questioned what the potential fi-nancial fallout for the County would be if anything were to happen because of lack of enforcement.
On Feb. 12 Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter to all 39 county sheriffs, noting that the ones who refuse to enforce I-1639 could be putting their taxpayers in a bind.
“In the event a police chief or sheriff refuses to perform the background check required by Initiative 1639, they could be held liable if there is a sale or transfer of a firearm to a dangerous individual prohibited from possessing a firearm and that individual uses that firearm to do harm. In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law,” said Fergu-son.
Other speakers expressed disappointment and concerns with the way in which Sheriff Songer’s stance became public with his appearances on Alex Jones’ Infowars and association with the Vancouver-based Patriot Prayer group.
What was interesting about this meeting was there was far more discussion on the individual provisions in I-1639 that many gun owners view as unconstitutional, particularly the provisions on safe gun storage and owner liability.
I-1639 would create new criminal offenses for the unsafe storage of a firearm if a person who cannot legally possess a firearm gets possession of it and uses it to commit a crime or harms themselves or someone else with it. These crimes would apply to the owner who irresponsibly stores or leaves a firearm in a place where the prohibited person, such as a child, may gain access to the firearm.
The owner who fails to securely store a firearm would be guilty of a felony if their firearm is used to cause personal injury or death. The owner who fails to securely store a firearm may also be found guilty of a gross misdemeanor charge if a prohibited person who discharges firearm or uses it in a way that shows intent to intimidate someone or that warrants alarm for the safety of others.
I-1639 would not mandate how or where a firearm must be stored, and it would provide that the crimes regarding unsecure storage would sometimes not apply to the owner, especially if the owner reports the firearm missing or stolen and can prove that the firearm was sufficiently stored or had other protections on it to keep it from discharging.
Many people spoke out against the provision, stating that it prevents responsible owners from having quick access to their firearms in an emergency, such as a home invasion or burglary.
Once the meeting concluded, Sauter said he was impressed and proud of how respectful people were to the speakers and that the Commissioners will continue to have discussions on this topic at their public meeting in Goldendale on March 19.
Another interesting aspect to the meeting was the presence of a camera crew from the news outlet Vice News.