Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher joins I-1639 rebellion

Roger Harnack

Add Benton County to the growing list of Eastern Washington areas rebelling against gun control measures enacted under Initiative 1639.
Today, Sheriff Jerry Hatcher announced that he instructed deputies not to enforce the measure until “the legality of I-1639 is resolved.”
Hatcher's jurisdiction covers one of the most populated areas in Eastern Washington; Benton County includes Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Finley, Benton City and Prosser, among other communities.
He's questioning the constitutionality of the law, as are many others in Eastern Washington.
Under I-1639, semi-automatic rifles are redefined as “assault rifles,” the ownership/possession age is raised to 21, safety classes are mandated before purchases and gun owners are to be held accountable for incidents involving their firearms, even if they are stolen. The measure also bans the sale of firearms to out-of-state residents, requires firearms dealers to sell gun safes and trigger locks, among other things.
Hatcher said his deputies will document possible offenses under the measure, but will not take any action.
His move follows similar actions in neighboring Franklin County, which includes the cities of Pasco, Connell and others.
There, Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, of Washington Redskins football fame, introduced a resolution earlier this week barring enforcement of I-1639 by law enforcement.
Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond agrees with the resolution; he previously said his agency won't actively enforce the law.
Benton and Franklin counties join Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, city of Republic Police Chief Loren Culp and West Richland Police Chief Ben Majetich in taking a nullification stance on the measure that was predominately opposed in rural Eastern Washington, but pushed through in November by the urban electorate in the Seattle-Tacoma area of the state. The city of Republic has also taken up a plan to make the city a “sanctuary city” for gun owners seeking cover from onerous gun-control regulations.
In Eastern Washington, 18 of 20 counties rejected the initiative by wide margins.
In Lincoln County, for example, 75 percent of voters opposed the measure. Other counties topping 70 percent opposition included Stevens County, 73.14 percent; Ferry County, 72.79 percent; and Garfield County, 72.95 percent. More than 60 percent of voters also opposed the measure in Adams, Benton, Columbia, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties.
The opposition to the measure shouldn't be a surprise, giving the rural nature of the state east of the mountains, where many communities depend on hunters to support their economies.
One such community, Riverside, even has a 20-year-old law on the books that requires homeowners to have a firearm.
East of the Cascades, only Spokane and Whitman counties supported the gun-control measure.
Whitman County is home to Washington State University. The university-related population — which includes anti-gun students and faculty who move temporarily into the area for education purposes — exceeds the local population. Still, the gun-control measure only had 54.33 percent support, the highest in Eastern Washington.
The I-1639 rebellion is not just limited to government agencies.
A couple gun store owners are also shooting holes in the law that partially went into effect Jan. 1, with the remainder to be enforced beginning July 1.
Talos Tactical owner Matt Cieslar is continuing to sell semiautomatic rifles to adults ages 18-20, despite the law raising the age to 21.
The owner of the gun shop at 4096 W. Van Giesen St. , West Richland, found a loophole in the law:
As of Jan. 1, the gun-control measure banned all sales of “assault” rifles to adults ages 18-20. But the definition of an assault rifle will not become law until July 1.
Lynnwood Gun owner Tiffany Teasdale agrees with the assessment and has also said she'll continue to serve her 18-20-year-old customers.
“We didn't throw caution to the wind,” Cieslar said previously, noting that selling the rifles is the “right thing” to do for his business, his customers and rural residents everywhere. “I've no intention of breaking the law. I'll continue to sell everything I legally can to every one I legally can until the day I legally can't.”
That day may come July 1.
But it may never come if the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association prevail in their challenge filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.