Petitions to repeal a controversial law aimed at stricter regulations on gun ownership are appearing across Klickitat County.
The state of Washington approved the repeal measure as a ballot initiative, meaning the state will require sponsors to gain 259,622 signatures to secure a spot in the November 2020 general election.
Initiative Measure No. 1094 would remove requirements “for sale or delivery of semiautomatic assault refiles, remove certain age limitations for pistols and semiautomatic assault rifles, repeal crimes regarding firearm storage, and change other firearms-related laws,” according to the ballot description.
I-1639 raised the legal purchasing age for firearms from 18 to 21, added background checks and enacted safe storage requirements for firearms.
The movement has largely been a campaign conducted on social media, with supporters linking politically active and conservative Twitter users and Facebook groups across the state with PDF documents containing the repeal petition for activists to print out and spread across communities, said sponsor of the petition John Valle.
Valle, who publishes the online magazine “The American Patriot” out of Stevens County, said he wanted the movement to be “a 100 percent grassroots effort.” He said the organizers are not taking or soliciting donations. However, he also acknowledged the movement is larger than the effort to secure I-1094’s place in the state’s lawbooks. Two gun rights advocacy groups, The Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association are challenging the restrictions in court, the Seattle P-I reported last month.
“We’re going to continue to hit them from all sides,” said Valle.
Valle said he believes nearly 250 gun shops across the state are now carrying petitions for customers and concerned citizens to sign. The last report he had seen in October had listed around 80,000 signatures in support of the repeal. Last Friday, Valle said “it’s gotta be over a hundred thousand by now.”
One local gun shop is carrying the petition. Debbi Carse, owner of Jakewood’s Gun and Pawn in Lyle, said she has already had five petitions filled out at the one location alone, which amounts to around a hundred signatures in support of repealing the restrictions on firearms.
Asked why she’s carrying the petitions in her store, Carse said, “I just think it’s unfair that it’s making it harder for law-abiding citizens to get firearms.”
“A criminal is not going to come in and lawfully obtain one,” Carse continued. She cited California’s complicated system for gun regulations as proof that such laws don’t work.
“You look at California and you can see that it’s not working. I mean, they just had a shooting yesterday,” said Carse, in reference to a Nov. 14 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita which took the lives of two students and injured three more, excluding the suspected shooter.
Sheriff Bob Songer spoke out against red-flag laws during a Nov. 12 meeting of the Klickitat County Republican Party. The law, which was passed in 2016, allows courts to issue an “extreme risk protection order” on behalf of police or family or household member to prevent an individual from accessing firearms, claiming that the regulations are a slippery slope to authoritarianism.
“There are some experts that agree that gun control works,” Songer said, holding up a printout of a meme comparing dictators to gun control experts, a tongue-in-cheek jeer at gun control supporters.
Songer acknowledged that there are instances when taking a firearm away from an individual is necessary for public safety, such as when domestic violence occurs or has thepotential to happen.
“There is a need to disarm some people, there’s no question about it,” Songer said. He said he believes the power to disarm individuals should be left to law enforcement.
While the state’s red-flag law is not addressed in the repeal movement, Songer also advocated for the repeal movement, saying he’s a “big second amendment guy.”
Songer has been an outspoken opponent of the measure, making his case for gun rights after the passage of I-1639 on many conservative platforms, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ web-based show “InfoWars.” Songer was also the subject of a Vice article, which examined his decision to not enforce the new gun restrictions.
Supporters of I-1639 have criticized the effort to repeal the law, saying people have already made their choice on gun regulation.
“Washington voters made their will clear last November when nearly 60 percent voted to pass Initiative 1639 to make our schools and communities safer from gun violence. It’s disappointing to see a small group of extremists working to overturn the will of the people,” Kristen Ellingboe, communications manager for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, wrote in an email. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility was one of many advocacy groups that spearheaded the initiative effort in 2018 to pass I-1639 as well as the state’s red flag law in 2016.
Asked about any effort the organization is making to protect the red flag law from being repealed, Ellingboe wrote: “We are certainly keeping an eye on the effort, but that’s as far as our plans extend at this time.”
Advocates of the repeal effort are due to have an easier time gathering support in the more rural precincts around the state. While nearly 60 percent of voters in Klickitat County did not support I-1639, just over 76% of voters in King County, which includes Seattle, voted for the measure, creating a margin of more than 500,000 votes in 2018.