Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition challenge Washington’s semi-auto ban

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Cam reported on the newly enacted gun restrictions in Washington State yesterday. Governor Jay Inslee signed several laws into effect, one of which prohibits the sale and transfer of so-called “assault weapons.” Cam also talked about the immediate filing of a lawsuit challenging the newly signed law. Minutes after the passed bill got signed into law, both the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition pounced with their lawsuit.


Responding quickly to the adoption of House Bill 1240 by the Washington Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee signing it into law, the Second Amendment Foundation today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new statute on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds, and is asking the court for preliminary and permanent injunctions.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case is known as Hartford v. Ferguson. Joining SAF are the Firearms Policy Coalition, Sporting Systems, a Hazel Dell retailer, and three private citizens, Brett Bass, Douglas Mitchell and Lawrence Hartford, for whom the case is named. They are represented by Seattle attorney Joel Ard.

House Bill 1240 specifically prohibits from engaging in the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, or “offer for sale” any so-called assault weapon, except for those mentioned in the carve out. The carve out of course includes law enforcement – which does not make sense, given the description of so-called assault weapons in a newly added section to the statue.

The legislature finds that assault weapons are not commonly used in self-defense and that any proliferation is not the result of the assault weapon being well-suited for self-defense, hunting, or sporting purposes. Rather, increased sales are the result of the gun industry’s concerted efforts to sell more guns to a civilian market. The legislature finds that the gun industry has specifically marketed these weapons as “tactical,” “hyper masculine,” and “military style” in a manner that overtly appeals to troubled young men intent on becoming the next mass shooter. The legislature intends to limit the prospective sale of assault weapons, while allowing existing legal owners to retain the assault weapons they currently own.


Not to make short order of SAF and FPC’s work, but if the firearms are not considered commonly used in self-defense, then why should law enforcement be immune to the new law? Law enforcement would have no reason to have the arms if they’re not that useful for defense. Is the legislature trying to say that the members of law enforcement are trying to be “hyper masculine?” 

“The State has enacted a flat prohibition on the manufacture, sale, import and distribution of many types of firearms, inaccurately labeled as ‘assault weapons,’ which are owned by millions of ordinary citizens across the country,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “In the process, the state has criminalized a common and important means of self-defense, the modern semiautomatic rifle. The state has put politics ahead of constitutional rights, and is penalizing law-abiding citizens while this legislation does nothing to arrest and prosecute criminals who misuse firearms in defiance of all existing gun control laws. It is absurd.”

Gottlieb is right in noting the arms are miscategorized as “assault weapons.” The definition that Washington laid out on what makes a firearm an assault weapon, might be one of the most comprehensive and complicated ones out of all the states regulating these commonly owned arms.

“The hysteria manufactured by the authors and supporters of this legislation is rivaled only by the false characterization of the banned firearms as ‘weapons of war,’” SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut, added. “As we note in our complaint, the firearms that Washington bans as ‘assault weapons’ are, in all respects, ordinary semiautomatic rifles. To the extent they are different from other semiautomatic rifles, their distinguishing features make them safer and easier to use. But even if they are considered as a separate group of ‘assault weapons,’ they cannot be banned because they are not dangerous and unusual.

“We will take this case to the highest court in the land, if necessary,” Kraut added. “This sort of legislative demagoguery cannot be allowed to stand.”


Something that was pointed out in a piece covering SAF related news the other day, also on semi-automatic bans, aside from the bans being facially unconstitutional – especially in light of NYSRPA v. Bruen – the arms are well within the bounds of “common use,” considering 200,000 stun guns/Tasers met that burden in the Caetano v. Massachusetts case.

The Firearms Policy Coalition also weighed in on the filing:

“The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” U.S. Const. amend. II. This Amendment guarantees a fundamental right to keep and bear common firearms for defense of self and family and for other lawful pursuits.'” The Complaint states. “But the State has enacted, and Defendants have authority to enforce, a flat prohibition on the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, and offering for sale of many common firearms—tendentiously labeled “assault weapons”—by ordinary citizens (“the Washington Ban”), making it a crime for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms. In so doing, the State of Washington has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens can exercise their fundamental right to self-defense. By banning manufacturing, importation, distribution, and sale of common semiautomatic rifles, the State has barred law-abiding residents from legally acquiring common rifles and has deprived them of an effective means of self-defense and their fundamental individual right to keep and bear arms.”

“Today’s filing is yet another step forward in FPC’s aggressive multi-state litigation campaign against those states that attempt to enforce immoral and unconstitutional restrictions on protected arms,” said FPC Director of Legal Operations Bill Sack. “Washington State lawmakers are playing politics with the natural and constitutional rights of their constituents. FPC will tirelessly work to undo these efforts that undermine the fundamental rights of the People.”


Seeing this case is within the bounds of the Ninth Circuit, it’ll be interesting if the judge hearing this it will rule on enjoining or restraining Washington’s new law until Judge Benitez decides on the GVRed Miller v. Bonta. While judge “Saint” Roger Benitez’s ruling won’t necessarily have any jurisdiction over what goes on in Washington State, a case out of Hawaii is stayed on being enjoined until Miller is decided – again. An order on Monday April 24, 2023 on National Association for Gun Rights v. Lopez notes:

EO: Having reviewed the parties’ supplemental notices of cases/authority, Dkt. Nos. 63-66, as requested by Plaintiffs–the moving parties here–the Court elects to STAY Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction (Dkt. No.24 ) pending a decision or decisions in Miller v. Bonta , 3:19-cv-01537 (S.D. Cal.) and Duncan v. Bonta , 3:17-cv-01017 (S.D. Cal.). See 4/7/23 Hrg. Tr. at 11:16-17 (counsel for Plaintiffs “urg[ing]” the Court to wait on decisions in the above-cited cases), Dkt. No. 62. Within seven (7) days of a decision or decisions in the above-cited cases, Plaintiffs are instructed to file in this case a notice of the same and a copy of the pertinent decision. IT IS SO ORDERED. (CHIEF JUDGE DERRICK K. WATSON) (tyk)

The work that the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, does to challenge unconstitutional law is beyond important for the Second Amendment. These organizations are doing the heaviest of lifting when it comes to litigation, are involved in cases on every coast, and aim to see that the Second Amendment is safeguarded for generations to come.


We’ll be watching the progress of this case and urge readers to check out and support the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition.

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