On the Hot Seat: Firearms advocates target Ferguson

Since being elected state attorney general in 2012, Democrat Bob Ferguson has had the Second Amendment and firearms in his gun sights.
And this year, with his political party controlling all branches of state government, he's pushed even harder for gun-control measures — measures that many rural residents say infringe on the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed in both the state and national constitutions.
New rules enacted under Initiative 1639 raise the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21, redefine the firearm as an “assault rifle,” require more stringent background checks and training, among other things. The rules would also make owners criminally liable if their firearm is used in an incident, even if the gun is stolen.
At the same time, Ferguson's party-mates in Olympia are taking up even more gun control measures and regulations on ammunition.
But just as new laws are taking effect, sheriffs, county commissions and residents are taking a stand. Twenty-three of the state’s 39 county sheriffs (as of this writing) said they won't enforce new gun-control measures enacted under Initiative 1639. A 24th — Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris — was summoned by Republicans to talk about the issue Monday in East Wenatchee.
In addition, at least four county commissions have passed resolutions opposing enforcement within their jurisdictions. Other counties, and a few cities, have similar resolutions in the chamber.
Those maneuvers may have slowed Ferguson's anti-firearm political agenda. But he still remains on the offensive. He warned sheriffs about failing to enforce the measure. Then, Gov. Jay Inslee joined the fray, threatening to use the Washington State Patrol.
When those tactics didn't work, Ferguson issued a letter Monday to sheriffs statewide and provided them with a frequently asked questions guideline.
In the meantime, rural residents have decided they have had enough. Now, they are figuratively taking aim at Ferguson.
The “Washington Strikes Back” effort — launched in “secret” last month on social media — is targeting Ferguson personally, singling him out for possible criminal charges and civil actions.
In just a couple weeks, hundreds of Affidavit of Complaining Witness have been collected, notarized and many filed in county courts. Yakima County organizers say they are expecting a case number to be assigned this week.
And yes, it appears that residents have the ability to “prosecute” the state's top prosecutor. Under Washington courts' Rule CrRLJ 2.1, “any person wishing to institute a criminal action alleging a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor shall appear before a judge empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the State...”
A judge will consider the complaint, and may provide a hearing to bring the information to a county prosecuting attorney for possible criminal proceedings. Consider doesn't necessarily mean criminal charges.
Complainants will have to make the case that Ferguson violated the law, any law. Did he break any laws by using his elected position, his office, supplies, staff, etc., to campaign for gun-control laws? We'll see what a judge says.
Then there's the civil question of whether Ferguson's efforts violate constitutional rights at the state or national level. Civil actions can be brought against Ferguson without a pre-determination from a judge.
The affidavits could also be used in such civil suits both in state and U.S. District courts, organizers say.
Blank affidavits are being handed out across Eastern Washington at events that sometimes include notaries (which helps in formal filing with courts). Affidavit-collection events have already occurred or are scheduled in Spokane, Colville, Prosser, Yakima, Pasco and Ferry County. More are sure to pop up in other counties when organizers are ready.
Interesting how the tables have turned.
Ferguson has made a name for himself by using state resources to sue the Trump Administration at the expense of taxpayers.
Now, he's going to have to defend himself against hundreds, possibly thousands, of rural taxpayers fed up with his anti-firearm antics.
Affidavits will be collected Saturday, March 9, in the Rendezvous Theater of Spokane Community College in Colville; Thursday, March 14, at Cafe Villa in Prosser; and Saturday, March 16, at the Franklin County Public Utility District office in Pasco.
If you think Ferguson has gone too far in the use of his office for political gain — and not just in his overzealous effort related to firearms — these events are your opportunity to say so.

— Roger Harnack is the publisher and editor of the Statesman-Examiner and Deer Park Tribune. Email him at publisher@statesmanexaminer.com.