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Gun sales soaring, sheriffs objecting ahead of final vote on WA "assault weapons" ban

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Neither of which is likely to make a lick of difference to the Democrat-controlled state legislature in Olympia, which is poised to send Gov. Jay Inslee his much-desired gun ban bill in the coming days. But the outpouring of opposition signals a tough road ahead for ban’s future, even before its challenged in court.

With HB 1240 awaiting a final concurrence vote in the state House, gun owners new and old alike are flocking to firearm retailers across the state. One gun store owner in Bellevue, Washington says there’ve been lines of customers waiting for doors to open over the past few days, and sales are skyrocketing.

Wade Gaughran, the owner of Wade’s Eastside Guns, said the store has seen a 400% increase in gun sales this month. “There’s no other reason that people are buying these guns right now, they might have bought them three months from now, six  months from now or a year from now but since the doors are being closed they’re going to buy as many as they can or as many as they want I should say,” he said.

Gaughran does not agree with the assault weapons ban and said it will impact his business in the long run.

“It’s violating the second amendment rights of every other citizen in the state of Washington,” he said. “I think it’s an extremely badly-written law and it actually goes against public safety.”

Wade said he’s had people waiting in line before their store even opens because so many people are interested in buying a gun right now. “In all my years of selling military style rifles, again what the other side would call assault weapons we’ve never had one traced back that was used in a serious crime and I’ve sold thousands and thousands of them over the past 35 years,” said Gaughran.

While gun owners are protesting with their wallets, many sheriffs in Washington State are also speaking out in opposition to the gun ban. Last week the Washington State Sheriffs Association released a statement blasting HB 1240, arguing it will do little-to-nothing to prevent violent crime or active shooter incidents. It’s worth clicking on the link to read the letter in its entirety, but here’s the money quote:

The problem of sudden mass murders is an urgent, complicated, and very human problem. Restricting certain guns does not weaken or remove the desire to kill. Reduce or remove the desire to kill, and the guns become irrelevant. Identify those psychologically moving towards killing and intervene, the guns become irrelevant.

We owe our communities a total commitment to understand, combat, and extinguish the desire for human slaughter. The scope and complexity of this challenge demands a holistic, nonpolitical priority. We need to expand, significantly, our study and approach to mental health and the things that influence it. This is where we will find the links to the problem and ultimately the map to effective solutions.

The continued approach of banning the import and sale of certain firearms leaves the most critical elements of this problem untouched. Instead of grappling with what leads seemingly ordinary people to become mass killers, this ban attacks the freedom of thousands of Washington gun owners who’ve demonstrated they pose no threat. The people who do not share or possess the desire to kill, but rather to defend and protect.

Neglecting to engage the cause of violence while focusing on the inanimate features of certain firearms also places Law Enforcement Officers in an untenable position. Laws that conflict with our state and federal constitutions force peace officers, and the communities they serve, to choose between two conflicting duties.

Every elected official is sworn to support and defend both the constitution and the laws of the State of Washington. This clearly presupposes that laws should be written to stand within the established boundaries of the constitution, not written along its outermost fringes. We oppose gun bans because they fail to meet the standards of our state and federal constitutions. They conflict with the rulings handed down by the Supreme Court.

We oppose them because they divert attention from and ignore the problem. We oppose them because we believe our counties and our nation can and must overcome division and brokenness to take real action to restore our sense of public safety and prevent these tragedies in the future.

The statement from the sheriffs’ association doesn’t promise or hint at outright non-enforcement of the law, but we’re likely to see some sheriffs adopt that stance if and when Inslee signs HB 1240 into law, just as dozens of Illinois sheriffs did back in January when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a gun and magazine ban bill.

Beyond the discretion of sheriffs in enforcing the ban, the inevitable legal challenges to the new ban could put a halt to the law altogether, though I doubt the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is going to side with gun owners. With the Fourth Circuit set to rule on a challenge to Maryland’s “assault weapons” ban at any time and other lawsuits pending in states like California, Delaware, Illinois, and Connecticut, the Supreme Court may get the opportunity to weigh in on the constitutionality of these bans in relatively short order. Ultimately for anti-gunners, getting the bill signed into law will be the easy part. Keeping it on the books and seeing it enforced it going to be a much more difficult proposition.

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