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Washington Could Raise the Age to Buy ‘Assault Rifles’ to 21 & Require a 10 Day Wait

by Countable | 10.31.18

What the Initiative Does

Washington Initiative 1639 would implement new restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms. It’d raise the minimum age for buying pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles to 21 and impose background checks and a 10-day minimum waiting period for semi-automatic assault rifles’ purchase. People ages 18-21 would be able to possess pistols or semi-automatic assault rifles in private spaces, fixed places of business, and while in transit between the aforementioned points. Additionally, the measure would establish requirements for storage of all firearms.

Semi-automatic assault rifle purchasers would have to provide proof that they’ve completed a recognized firearm safety training program in the last five years with instruction on basic firearm safety, secure gun storage, the safety of children and firearms, suicide prevention, safe handling, and state and federal firearm law.

Firearms dealers would have to be notified in writing by the chief of police or sheriff in the purchaser’s residence’s jurisdiction that the purchase is eligible to own a firearm, and that the application to purchase is approved. The chief of police or sheriff would be required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and other databases to determine whether the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm.

The licensing department could require firearms dealers to charge each purchaser or transferee of up to $25 to fund the state, mental health institutions, and local law enforcement for the cost of meeting obligations under this measure.

For the purposes of this measure, “semiautomatic assault rifle” is defined as “Any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge. ‘Semiautomatic assault rifle’ does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.”

If this initiative passes, it’d make Washington the fifth state to increase the age for semiautomatic rifles.

In Favor

States with stricter gun laws have lower gun-related suicide and homicide rates, indicating that passage of this initiative will make Washingtonians safer. It’s currently too easy to buy assault weapons in Washington, and the legislature hasn’t taken action — so this is the best way to tighten up the state’s gun control laws.


Relatively few crimes and homicides are committed with long-guns of any kind, so putting stricter limits on semi-automatic assault rifles sales won’t meaningfully increase public safety. Young adults have the right to vote, serve in the military, and smoke — they should also be allowed to purchase semi-automatic rifles as long as they’re law-abiding and qualified to be gun owners.


Safe Schools Safe Communities, also called Yes on I-1639, is leading the campaign in support of Initiative 1639 with the support of The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Moms Rising, and others. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility argues that it’s currently too easy to buy assault weapons in Washington:

“In Washington, it is currently easier to buy an assault weapon than it is to purchase a handgun because assault weapons are treated the same as hunting rifles. This must change.”

AG Ferguson adds that this measure is needed in the absence of action by the state legislature:

"I’m deeply committed to this and, in general, to having common sense gun reform laws in our state. It’s outrageous what we have, it’s deeply disappointing to me that our state Legislature won’t address these issues in a forthright manner, and if that means we have go directly to the people to get these changes, then I’m behind it.”

Decline to Sign 1639, also called Save Our Security No on I-1639, is leading the campaign against Initiative 1639 with the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Second Amendment Foundation, and Washington Arms Collectors, Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, and others. The NRA criticizes this measure as an attack on the second amendment that’d gut self-defense rights in Washington:

“Initiative 1639, filed by Michael Bloomberg’s front group, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, is an egregious attack on Second Amendment freedoms and comes just months after failing to enact their gun ban agenda in Olympia. Please spread the word to your family, friends, and fellow gun owners about this latest attack on self-defense rights in the Evergreen State! Help protect Second Amendment rights in Washington and decline to sign this initiative petition."

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, adds that this measure is discriminatory, especially against young adults:

“This measure treats all gun owners, especially young adults, like criminal suspects. In short, Washington prides itself for being against discrimination, except when it comes to gun ownership. Then principle is sacrificed for political correctness, and social prejudice becomes acceptable."

In an op-ed in The Seattle Times, Gottlieb expounded on his position, arguing that law-abiding adults 18 and up are carry significant responsibilities, and can be trusted with guns:

“Washington’s law-abiding adults aged 18-20 are legally responsible enough to vote, get married, purchase a home, sign a contract and serve in our military. Yet I-1639’s proponents want you to believe these same adults cannot be trusted to defend themselves or their families and are attempting to use the crimes of a few as a justification to curtail the rights of many.
Washington deserves real solutions to keep our communities safe, solutions that will rightly target criminals, not you, your family and your law-abiding neighbors. This extreme initiative mandates blatant age discrimination, requires additional costly firearm registration, increased waiting periods, costly mandatory training, draconian firearm storage requirements, unfair purchase tax, and more — none of which will stop criminals or protect our Washington schools… Please vote no to reject this false security that only restricts your, your family’s, and friends’ and neighbors’ right to self-defense.”

Three lawsuits have been filed against this measure. One lawsuit filed by the NRA challenged the ballot title and summary, leading to their rewording. Another lawsuit, filed by the Second Amendment Foundation, that sought to keep the initiative from securing a place on the ballot was dismissed. Finally, a third lawsuit filed by the NRA shortly after the initiative’s certification on July 27, 2018 alleged that its ballot language and petition format didn’t meet statutory requirements and, therefore, the initiative should be stricken from the ballot.

On August 17, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled in favor of the NRA, removing the measure from the ballot. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility filed an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s ruling on August 24, allowing this initiative to stay on the November 2018 ballot.

Should this initiative pass, gun-rights advocates have already committed to challenging it in court. In an email to The Seattle Times, Alan Gottlieb said, “We will not telegraph details to the gun-prohibition lobby… [but] yes, 1639 will be challenged in court if it passes.

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: / MariuszBlach)


Written by Countable

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