Working off a ballot initiative that passed in November, the state of Washington implemented new gun laws on January 1, including one that will make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. The law has already come under fire from pro-Second Amendment groups; it is now facing a legal challenge in the courts that could result in it being overturned.
The Washington law will also toughen up background checks for anyone buying a semi-automatic rifle and require the safe storage of all guns, but those aspects of the law will not go into effect until July 1.
“We’ve seen that assault rifles are the weapon of choice for mass shootings,” said Kristen Ellingboe, a spokeswoman for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “And when they’re used, more people are killed and injured.”
59% of Washington voters agreed with her when they went to the polls on November 6.
“We’ve seen time and again that Washington voters want action to prevent gun violence in our state,” she said. “They showed that again by supporting Initiative 1639 by a wide margin.”
But the law’s opponents see it as an infringement on constitutional rights.
“Starting today, young adults between the ages of 18 to 20 will have their rights to purchase semi-automatic rifles stripped away,” said Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation.
Age limits on the purchase of semi-automatic rifles are nothing new – you already have to be 18 in most states. But Washington is not alone in raising the age to 21. Florida has done it, as has New York, Hawaii, Illinois, and Vermont.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is not only confident that he will prevail in defending the initiative in court, he’s moving forward with legislative priorities that reflect a fixation on stiffer gun laws across the board. The AG’s office is supporting legislative solutions that would cut down on so-called “high-capacity magazines,” reducing them to 10-round limits. The AG also wants to ban “assault weapons,” which his office defines as any semi-automatic rifle “with at least one military-style feature that make the firearm shoot more accurately and rapidly.”
The stage is set for a fierce battle over the Second Amendment in Washington and other blue states that don’t like the fact that federal gun laws are paralyzed by a Republican-controlled D.C. (and that pesky Constitution, of course). Hopefully, the courts will see these new laws for what they are – an attempt to do an end-around on our freedoms, achieving absolutely nothing for public safety while penalizing only those who abide by the laws.