You’re 19 years old and a citizen of Washington State. Recently, you got the hunting bug and you’ve decided small-game hunting will be a great way to get started. Your dad owns a Ruger 10-22 rimfire rifle, so you plan to buy a box of .22 rimfire rounds, some blaze orange clothing and a hunting license, and hit the woods.
Good plan, right?
Maybe not. Thanks to the recently passed ballot initiative I-1639, the above-mentioned Ruger 10-22 is now a “semi-automatic assault rifle,” and a person can’t buy one unless he or she is at least 21 years old. In addition to the term “assault” being an attempt paint every firearm as fully automatic, the language in I-1639 is also less than clear on whether or not a person under the age of 21 can even be in possession of said 10-22, on loan, for example, during a hunt.
So, our above-mentioned 19-year-old could have a great hunt—or he or she could be ticketed, arrested and/or have his or her rifle confiscated.
Even once a citizen of the state is 21, I-1639 puts all sorts of draconian restrictions on common semi-automatic hunting rifles that will make hunting more difficult and more expensive. These include training requirements and additional fees for those who want to purchase and use semi-automatic hunting rifles.
Paving the Path to Court Add it all up and I-1639 means Washington citizens young and old are losing Second Amendment rights and hunting opportunities.
“Gun control advocates always say they don't want to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns,” said Lars Dalseide, public affairs media liaison for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “Yet, that's exactly what is happening right now in Washington.”
Concerning younger hunters, “I-1639 bans pistol sales to anyone under 21 years of age. It prohibits transfers and sales of legal semi-automatic ‘assault’ rifles (SARs) by anyone under 21 years of age. It bans the possession of semi-automatic rifles by anyone less than 21 years of age unless one of the few exceptions applies. These age restrictions on the legal possession of a SAR by anyone under the age of 21 apply even if the gun was acquired and possessed legally before the effective date of I-1639,” according to the NRA-ILA website article, “Vote NO On I-1639.”
Given the 30-page law’s vague requirements, hunters and other guns owners could inadvertently face fines and/or jail time for situations over which they have no control. Let’s say you are returning from a morning hunt and stop at a roadside diner for lunch. Someone steals your vehicle and the semi-auto firearms you brought along for your hunt. Are you in violation of I-1639, which devotes many pages to a gun owner’s legal duty to secure his or her firearms, and the punishments that can result if these safeguards are not in place?
The answer is… no one knows for sure.
According to “Vote NO On I-1639,” “The storage crime [section of the ballot initiative] doesn’t have a blanket exception for cases where the prohibited person gains access to a gun though a criminal act or the criminal act of a third party; the only exception is access by ‘unlawful entry.’ This doesn’t clearly apply to access that occurs because of other crimes, like theft of a motor vehicle.”
Of course, the ballot initiative was not hunting focused, per se. It was and is a huge assault on the Second Amendment rights of every citizen of Washington State—which is why the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation launched a lawsuit against I-1639 soon after the November 2018 elections results were tallied.
“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox when the lawsuit was announced. "I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense."
Exposing Anti-Gun Groups’ Playbook One of the divide-and-conquer approaches anti-Second Amendment groups use is to claim they only want “common sense” restrictions on firearms and won’t ban or restrict hunting arms. As this NRA HLF website reported in December 2017, that claim is untrue—as proven by the attempt to get .50-caliber muzzleloaders banned by the anti-gun group Giffords (formerly known as Americans for Responsible Solutions). With the passage of Washington ballot initiative I-1639, we see that lie once more revealed.
The Second Amendment, of course, was not written as a hunting amendment. Yet, if the anti-gunners and their groups have their way, the situation in this state points to the direction of things to come: Tens of thousands of law-abiding hunters will be taxed and regulated to the point that hunting might just be too difficult to do, while specific groups of hunters (in this case, those under 21) are banned from using common hunting firearms.
As Dalseide noted, “First, these anti-gunners created the term ‘semiautomatic assault weapons’ when they launched I-1639, and then they claimed the term includes every semiautomatic rifle from a .308 to a .22 rifle—and then they banned the possession of those guns for young adults. The goal is to ban all guns, and gun control advocates won’t stop until they have achieved their goal. Little by little, they'll chip away at our rights until nothing is left.”